Why I Didn’t Let My Lack of a Degree Stop Me – And Why You Shouldn’t Either

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So I was sitting down being all depressed by my lonesome about my lack of a degree, when I confided in a friend doing his second degree in neuroscience. He said some really wise words to me about how skills are largely transferable unless you’re doing a hands-on job. 

And that made me think.

It made me think a lot.

I then decided to not ever let the fact that I don’t have a degree stop me from having a fulfilling career.

After all, it’s only recently that tertiary education has become a thing. Previously, university had been for affluent members (mostly men) of society. Before degrees became commonplace, people relied on apprenticeships and learnt their skills on the job itself.

Nowadays, you don’t need that. You can just teach yourself skills with the Internet!

Computer proficiency

Most jobs require some degree of computer literacy, and this can definitely be self taught. The most important programmes to be proficient in would be Microsoft Office, which quite a lot of us are familiar with already.

As long as your basic computer skills (using Microsoft Office tools, basic photo editing and screenshotting skills) are on point, you should be fine.

If you’re looking for more, programming is something that would be good to learn and can be self taught via YouTube channels, or cheap online classes which even issue a certificate that you can keep as part of your CV.

Extra skills

There are other handy skills to learn which would look great on any resume – for example, speed reading, touch typing and public speaking.

Speed reading is a very handy skill to have whether you’re still a student or in the workforce. Imagine doubling or even tripling your reading speed to speeds of 500 words per minute (WPM). Do you know how much time you save when you’re able to read quickly? Like, a lot.

Touch typing is another skill that takes a little practice but has a remarkable trade-off, and can be learnt online free. All you have to do is Google it up and you’ll quickly find resources.

Communication and networking skills

Given that we don’t live in a vacuum and that we have to actually communicate like adults every day, communication skills are essential in any career. 

I worked on my communication skills with my best friends first, in a casual setting that I was comfortable with. I allowed them to give me feedback on how I communicate (their biggest issue was that I tend to forget to greet people and that I can be too casual – which meant I basically lacked manners).

Public speaking can be worked on with a simple Toastmasters Club membership, and turning up for a few of their meetings (it’s about RM 260 for six months, excluding a sign up fee). 

If that’s too expensive an option, just make a drinking game out of it – the loser has to make an impromptu speech after downing a shot. 

Life’s better when you can make drinking games out of career skills building.

Critical thinking

Through periods of introspection (read: trying to fall asleep on my new extremely firm mattress and not being able to, so I have to start thinking about everything I ever did wrong), I realised that critical thinking was integral to presentations and optimal day-to-day performance. That was also something I lacked, but yeah.

Anyway, I found that the biggest problem with my arguments was that I tend to be too circular in the points I was making. This was because I lacked evidence, usually.

I read a lot of articles on how to improve critical thinking skills (so y’all don’t have to) and they basically talk a lot about questioning the information you’re fed. 

Thinking critically, aha. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

But yeah, think about the information you have.

Leadership and teamwork skills

Not a team player? Not good at taking the initiative? Well, I’ve got good news for you – it’s something you can work on! 

I did more reading and the top qualities that make a good leader are: passion, enthusiasm, motivation, the ability to inspire others, and, of course, strong communication skills. That’s not an exhaustive list, however.

To be a good team player, on the other hand, you require (again) strong communication skills, the ability to be reliable, and to stay relevant. 

I navigated through all of this by keeping a planner. The one I highly recommend is The High Performance Planner by Brendon Burchard.

Not gonna lie, life’s a lot harder when you’re not equipped with a degree, but if it’s the path you intend to take, you’ve got no student loans to worry about, at least. I like to think of it as playing life as a video game on “hard” mode, even though I don’t play any games on anything harder than easy.

For more articles on career and skills, read Watch out for These 4 Signs – Your Freelance Client Could Be a Waste of Time and Not a Good Communicator at Work? Here Are 4 Ways to Be Better.

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