Embracing the College-Isn't-For-Everyone Movement

We have all heard it before. A message that has been drilled into our heads by guidance counselors, parents, teachers, and the media alike. "The best way to guarantee your career future is to go to a good college and get a degree."

While it's true that certain jobs require a degree, you might be surprised to find that the almighty degree is not the first priority for many hiring managers. In fact, many jobs don't even require a college degree at all.


So what is the most overlooked resume item that recruiters and managers are really looking for? Real-world, practical workplace skills.

These soft skills include communication and interpersonal skills or the ability to solve problems, to complete projects and to stay organized. According to a recent study conducted jointly by Chegg, an online resource for students, and Harris Interactive, only 39% of managers felt that recent college graduates they'd interviewed were job-ready. Overwhelmingly, they reported that recent grads were lacking in practical skills such as time management, communication, problem-solving and organizational proficiencies.

Indeed, according to the Chegg study, which surveyed 2,000 students and 1,000 hiring managers in the US, real-world skills like these are the top priority in today's job market. Moreover, the prestige associated with certain colleges also didn't matter much at all according to the study. In fact, only 28% of managers said that it factored greatly into their decision. In other words, it's the skills that matter, far more than the reputation of where they were acquired.

Three practical ways to add skills to your resume:

So if you want to boost your resume, the best thing to do is take a class. Sign up for a shop class, or a cooking class, or a course in introductory business or computer science or accounting. You don't have to be enrolled in school to do this - in virtually every town or city in America you can find classes on all kinds of practical skills at local community centers, libraries, museums, or learning annexes. You could also try looking online on sites like Skillsshare.com, Craigslist, Meetup.com, or even post a query to your Facebook wall asking your local friends for leads.

I would also recommend checking out the certificate degree programs at your local community college. Nearly all community colleges offer certificates in areas like woodworking, business, accounting, automotive mechanics, sewing, culinary arts, and computer skills. You don't have to commit to a two-year Associate's Degree in order to take advantage of this. A certification program can take only a few hours of your time per week and the cost is very reasonable--usually a tiny fraction of the cost of classes at a four-year college or university.

And also worth looking into - local opportunities for apprenticeships. In many towns and cities schools and local businesses are teaming up to create on-the-job training opportunities. There just might be an opportunity right before your eyes to start an exciting career in information technology, health care, design, or business--and get paid while you learn.

Whether you're looking for a job, angling for a promotion, or looking to transition into a new role or even entirely new career, having some type of vocational skills training behind you can be the one item that makes a big difference.