Career tips Rogier Rijnja  

Jobs without degrees – the new normal.

College as we know it is about to disappear.

At FindMino, we conducted a survey a little while ago with teens and young adults across North America and learned that nearly 75% of those contacted confirmed they would prefer to go to college.[1]

The mindset of most teenagers and young adults is still that college is the natural way to go. 

But recent developments indicate a major shift. 

✅ 1.College in the US is getting unaffordable for many.

Total annual cost for college out-of-state could go up to $41.000 or $51.000. [2] The US student loan debt amounts to $1.6 trillion at the moment. This puts a big burden to most of us right at the start of our careers.

✅ 2.The preferences of teenagers have started to shift.

Pay is no longer the key factor to determine one’s career choice. Factors like self fulfillment, personal impact, and contributing to a healthier environment are getting more important:

93% percent of teenagers say that their decision to work in a company is primarily influenced by the company’s impact on the environment and society. [3]

The Covid experience may reinforce this trend, now people are having more time for reflection.

✅ 3.Online-learning is growing immensely.

The amount of on-line training sites and programs is growing rapidly[4]. This both applies to degree programs and other skills based programs. At the moment 50% of Harvard’s students are distance learning students. Check here to read more on how the internet changed the way we learn.

Once again, Covid will reinforce this growth.

✅ 4. Working from home is a strongly increasing trend.

There’s a rise of the “gig economy”.[5]. Technology enables quite a variety of jobs to be done from home, often part time. And Covid doesn’t give many of us much choice.

👉 Time to revisit the college-bias at high school. 

Our high school system is about gathering new knowledge and skill, and quite a bit of it, in a relatively short amount of time. The system is driven to provide education in quite a broad sense. High school students are continuously tested on progress and corrective actions are put in place to make sure sufficient progress is made each semester, each year. 

And the high school ecosystem offers many stimuli to take that step to college. There’s that perception, with parents, school counselors, and hence with teenagers that ‘college is the right way to go’. Also called the ‘Bandwagon Effect’. When so many people believe into something, you got a tendency to believe into it as well. 

It’s about time to revisit these assumptions, to jump the bandwagon.

👉 Flatironschool. “Nearly all job-seeking graduates across our programs beginning fulfilling careers at leading companies like Google, Apple, Black Rock, and even NASA.”

Flatiron School offers Tech programs and simply guarantees their students employment upon successful completion of their courses. 93% of students landed jobs in tech in 2019. What’s more, they re-fund your tuition if you don’t obtain a job offer within 6 months of your job-seeking start date.

Check out some participants and their stories

The majority of job-seeking grads accepted offers within 2 months of starting their job search, at an average starting salary of $74,566.

👉 Another nice example of “how personal talents actually determine someone’s true value at work, not their college degrees.” 

Take a look at A third of their employees finished high school. That’s generally as high as education gets with Catalyte’s employees before they join the company.

“We use artificial intelligence to identify individuals, regardless of background, who have the innate potential and cognitive ability to be great software developers.”[6]

Catalyte works with severe selection criteria. But they aren’t looking at degrees someone has. They are not interested in their resume’s. They are only interested in what personal talents people bring.

People who join with an average annual salary of $ 25.000 typically see it close to quadruple in about 4-5 years time. 

👉 The importance of college degrees diminishes after you start working.

Having recruited tons of people in the past, I must admit that a college degree was often part of the success criteria I listed for a job, and for the candidates to be interviewed. It’s a tangible and safe criterion to work with. 

However good or bad you are as a recruiter, it always very much remains a gamble to bring the right person in.  But, proven track record is most vital in the recruiting process, and figuring out the role one played in establishing that record. 

It’s the experience, skill, knowledge and attitude someone possesses, someone has grown over time, that determine their value for the job. The importance of their educational background diminishes at the same speed as their experience grows.

👉 Life experience matters as much as work experience.

And you know what, it’s not only work experience that matters. It’s life experience at large that’s relevant.  High school students who played active roles at school, in the school’s paper or musical organization, actually gathered life experience that could be worth much more than high ratings for everything.  They had a better chance to figure out what their personal talents and interests actually are.

But how to get a candidate to ‘proof’ his or her track record, when they got little to show yet? 

The less life experience they got, the more you need to rely as a recruiter on hard factslike a diploma, a college degree. 

Catalyte replaces track record by a firm and data driven selection for personal talent. It’s an approach that is expected to grow in the future. 

👉 The use of going to college

Some jobs will continue to require extensive academic learning. Think of the medical professions or the legal ones as examples. 

And in general, I believe that going to college does offer a framework to deepen your analytical and problem solving skills.   Any college major will play with a framework versus the meaning of its individual components.  College just stretches and teaches you to think.

Point is that we will continue to need a mix of people with degrees, with tested intellectual qualities, versus people with proven hands-on skills. As a matter of fact, on both ends of the spectrum we are starting to see shortages.[7] But it’s the way we get to the right balance, and the way we get to developing both, that we must revisit. We don’t need 75% of teenagers to go to college. We can perfectly do with less, but better make sure that high school students choose the paths that fit best with them, not with the Bandwagon.


I would conclude that college may offer a way to speed up the development of your intellectual horsepower. But it’s not the only way to get there.

👉 So should I go to college or take a job without college?

This is the golden question. Parents and friend-groups will have lots of opinions as to how to answer this question, so just remember to allow yourself to answer this question for yourself. 

And balance a few things. 

1.Be honest about your ambitions.

This is not necessarily career-ambitions, but it’s about ambitions to learn.  How big is your urge to dig deeper in things intellectually. Do you like to study? Or do you have an urge to get to work and take if from there?

2.Know your interests.  

Think about the things that make you thrilled, and the things you sense you’re good at.  Do you like science, art, music, design, or does working with your hands make you most enthusiastic? And what do you care about most: your personal fulfillment, your family, friendships, or impact on society?

3.Rate the importance of money.

A college degree will increase the chances for you to earn a better salary. Downside is the significant debt most of us will face to go there. How important are these factors for you relative to your interests, ambitions and the things you care about?

4.Explore and prioritize.

College is an option for many of us. But there are other ones as well. Explore what they are. Look for people doing them, online or real life. Map those options.  Chew on them, and again. Then choose the one that you feel best about. [8]

5.Be flexible.  

The drop out rate of people at the first year in college is high, but many people who start working right after high school also often regret their choices.  Realize that one can never be 100% sure their choice was the right one.  Be flexible, but never decide too quickly.

Want to know more?

Sign on to Free access. No need to download. FindMino is a web app that offers an inspiring place to get sorted on career choice. In a pleasant way FindMino helps to find your competencies, and to make up your mind on where you want to go. And it pre-sorts quality online information around careers, saving you tons of time to find it yourself. 

[1]Survey run by Likemymind Media B.V. in July 2018, under 300 US high school students ages 16-19 yrs old across the country:  76% prefers to go to College, 24% either prefers to take a job or isn’t sure yet.



[4]Read the Forbes report.

[5]Read this IncFile blog for background.

[6]Check for more info.  

[7]Check the 2019 Skills gap report by SHRM. What’s missing most are Data analysis, Science, Engineering and Medical, AND Carpentry, Plumbing, Welding and Machining.

[8]Check out Findmino to explore your options.

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