How important are qualifications?

Some people may think that if they have a good degree from a good university then this will be their entrée to their job of choice. If only it were that simple!

Whether you are entering the workforce post-university, have migrated from another country and seeking work in Australia, or changing jobs, your qualifications may only provide a foundation. Knowledge dates rapidly, some becomes obsolete. The life span of what you learnt during a degree may be very short.

Hopefully your degree will have helped you to think, exposed you to key issues, given you professional competencies. Even if it did do this, employers are not going to base their decision to employ you solely on your qualifications.

For graduates entering the workforce, it is important to know that employers place much value on skills and qualities that may not be directly related to your course. While gaining first class honours in economics, or completing cutting-edge research in your physics honours year are worthy, they will not, by themselves, get you a job.

Known as employability skills, generic or transferable skills, these skills cover areas like problem solving, communication skills, teamwork. These are skills that are used to complete a degree and are used in part-time work that funds your studies, although they may not have been top of mind at the time. A work-savvy student will pay attention to what behaviours employers favour in the workplace and look for evidence of them from across their life experience, including course work, part-time work, work experience, volunteer/community activities, sport and hobbies.

Later in life you may have extended, enhanced, refined your skills and knowledge by completing further qualifications. Some of the benefits of further qualifications lie not in course content but in:

  • Exposure to leading experts, thought leaders, and networks.
  • An enhanced ability to see new relationships and trends.
  • Ability to provide sound advice and technical leadership.
  • Ability to translate information across professions e.g. finance to IT
  • Increased awareness of relevant risks and how to manage them
  • Better understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of your own professional practice
  • The acquisition of an extended range of practical tools, techniques, applications.

Next time you are tempted to make a claim for a job based on qualifications, think again. Most of your competitors can likely claim similar, or even higher, qualifications. This will not be enough to win you the job.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.