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Why Top Companies No Longer Require a University Degree – And what they now look for

Do you know that Google, Apple, IBM, Bank of America, Starbucks and some other global companies no longer require a university degree for their job positions? Recently, Elon Musk was using Twitter to recruit for Tesla, his electric car company. A part of the tweet read, “A PhD is definitely not required. I don’t care if you even graduated high school”. Even right here in our office, not a single person was employed based on what they studied in the university. Why is that? Does it mean that going to study at the university is a waste of time? What then do these companies need to access a candidate’s suitability for a job?

So many questions to answer; but we will try to answer these questions in this post. While you are here, why not subscribe to our newsletter to continue exploring opportunities of the present and the future.

Why top companies no longer require university degrees

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The simple answer is this; organizations are only interested in what candidates have to offer, degree or not. If candidate ‘A’ without a degree can offer more value to an employer, over degree holding candidate ‘B’, candidate A becomes the obvious choice. To expand further, there is an increasing mix-match between academic education and market need. For instance, while studying petroleum engineering in the university, I only got to visit an oil rig for the first time in my final year. Someone with a diploma from a petroleum training institute would be a preferred candidate.

Companies are beginning to lay less emphasis on university degree because they have identified skills that are more important in the workplace than an academic degree. If candidates have these important skills, they can learn on the job and deliver a great job.

Is university degree a waste of time?

Does this now mean that spending 4 to 6 years to get a degree is a waste of time? Well, the answer to this question depends on a lot of factors.

For instance, in delicate fields like the medical, nuclear physics and such professions, a degree and even advanced degrees are required. But you don’t need a university degree to build a career in software development, marketing or film making for instance.

Another thing to consider is your environment. While some forward-thinking organizations are laying less emphasis on degrees, a lot of companies and organizations still rely heavily on academic qualification. In fact, such establishments even discriminate by the class of academic qualification. For instance, you cannot get some jobs in multinational companies in Africa without a minimum of second class upper degree. So the answer depends on what you want. At the moment, for most people living in Africa, who want to build a career climbing the corporate ladder, in already established organizations, you still need a university degree. But if you are looking for a less traditional career, especially in fields that are highly dependent on skills you can learn on your own, a university degree could be a waste of time.

What qualification are employers looking for?

Everyone is talking today about 21st-century skills young people will need in the workplace. Conventional wisdom has been that students need to study STEM courses (that is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). And maybe they should learn to code as well because that’s where the jobs are. While these are steps in the right direction, it appears much attention is focused on the surface and overlooking the foundation.

Recent studies of workplace success contradict conventional wisdom about “hard skills.” Surprisingly, this research comes from the company most identified with the STEM-only approach: Google.

Google was launched in 1998. When they first started, founders Sergey Brin and Larry Paige (both brilliant computer scientists) set an algorithm to locate great computer, science experts. In 2013, Google decided to test how their hiring and firing process has worked out so far, through a project they called “Project Oxygen”. The outcome of this project shocked everyone. It turned out that of the eight most important skills at Google, STEM expertise came in the last position. Topping the list were strong interpersonal skills. Google began adjusting their hiring process; they realized that elite science universities were not handing them their best employees.

So what are the most valuable skills top companies now looks for in candidates?

  1. Leadership and coaching ability

Being able to transfer knowledge and help others get things done. Top companies look for people (no matter the position applied) with the ability to influence and inspire others to follow their ideas. According to Google, leadership is not about always being in the driver’s seat. It’s rather about being there when a problem comes up and stepping away when it’s been dealt with. In a nutshell, you need to feel when it’s appropriate to display leadership and when it’s not.

  1. Communicating and listening skill

Being able to effectively interact with other people in and outside a team to achieve set goals is top of the list of most have skills.

  1. Social awareness

This is about being able to put yourself in other’s shoes and understanding that people are people. Top companies evaluate this from how easy you are to get along with. Every interviewer will be asked if they would be comfortable working and communicating with you every single day. With this in mind, you need to demonstrate that you value collaboration and work well in a team environment.

  1. Learnability

In today’s rapidly changing work, it’s not what you already know that matters. What is important is how quickly you can learn what you need to know. Learnability is the desire and ability to continually grow and adapt your skillset. And it is essential, no matter what your occupation is. Learnability will make you more employable for the long-term, than any other current skill you have. And this is best achieved through a consistent, intentional commitment to continuous learning.

In today’s fast-paced market place, where companies either innovate or die, employees need to be comfortable with managing ambiguous situations. The thing is that companies don’t know how their business will evolve. So they are expecting lots of ambiguous situations along the way. As such, an applicant should be comfortable dealing with situations in which there are no clear-cut pathways to solutions.

  1. Critical thinking:

You don’t have to be Einstein to get hired in a top company. Intelligence matters, but your ability to objectively analyze and evaluate issues to form a judgment is even more important. This involves uniting technology-inclined mindset with endless ideas and ways to approach complex tasks. In other words, you know how to translate raw data into decisions that would bring the desired results. These decisions are usually hard to make and have multiple ways of dealing with. People who have critical thinking ability always consider all sides of an argument and use the information they received to find answers and solutions others may have never thought about.

  1. Problem solving

This involves your ability to come up with innovative solutions to problems. Most businesses are technically in the business of solving problems. So in most cases, you are hired to solve problems. And the employer wants to hire people that are good at solving problems. This calls for qualities like open-mindedness, intellectual courage, enjoying work, and a great deal of self-discipline.

  1. Connecting complex ideas

This is the ability to identify connecting grounds between isolated concepts and make meaning of it. An academic certificate is becoming increasingly detached from what is required in the real world. A degree certificate will rarely get you any far if you don’t develop complementary soft skills. Enrol for online courses. We publish educative content to help you explore opportunities of the 21st century. Let’s hear your thoughts in the comment section. If you found this post helpful, please share with someone. Until next time, YOUR SUCCESS MATTERS

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