Why your learning matters, not your degree

Zappos Lobby Library

Sorry to break the bad news. Your degree doesn’t matter. Your BA or BS doesn’t mean I should hire you. Your MBA doesn’t mean you know how to run a business. The name of the school you went to … meh. Your degree doesn’t matter. At least not as much as you think it does.

As a former HR Professional and veteran of HR tech industry, Degreed crystallized something I have always felt but didn’t put words to – your degree simply doesn’t matter. It is true your degree is an important record of your training on the fundamentals (math, history, language, bowling, etc.) and learning how to think critically. It is an important step in lifelong learning but it simply doesn’t matter as much as what you have learned since you graduated. Your BA isn’t as valuable as your recent learning in determining readiness or qualifications for a job. Your MBA doesn’t make you a better manager than someone who has helped grow a business and stays current with reading on entrepreneurship and leadership.

Simply, your degree doesn’t matter as much as your lifelong learning. Jeff Weiner summed it up well at a recent conference, “increasingly I hear this mantra: skills not degrees. It’s not skills at the exclusion of degrees. It is just expanding our perspective to go beyond degrees.” Degreed is “jailbreaking the degree.” Degreed is offering a way to demonstrate the learning that does matter.

Having started my career in Human Resources and having built and scaled global Customer Success teams at several fast-growing companies, I have had the opportunity to interview thousands of people. One of my favorite questions has always been, “Why did you go to college, what did you study and how did that lead to where you are today?” A three part interview question? Cue eye roll, I know.

For me, it had nothing to do with the school, the level of degree or even the subject. That’s interesting, but candidly, has never mattered to me that much. What I do find interesting is the insights into the individual and how they have leveraged that foundation to learn and grow through their career. “Oh… I have a degree in history because I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I have always been interested in the Civil War. But after graduating, I …” or “I have a degree in math because I love technical analysis but after graduating I found that I hate being stuck in spreadsheets all day so I ….

The honesty in many of the answers can lead to an interesting discussion. The way candidates connect higher education to their career and lifelong learning is a great indication of what they are bringing to the table. It is an interesting insight into the Why of their career. It is almost rare anymore to find someone who went to school and received a degree in the same area as their current profession. Art History majors celebrate! There is hope.

Even if your degree is perfectly aligned with the job you want, I want to know what you have been doing since.

The problem? Many recruiters and HR organizations are still measuring you by your college degree because that’s the standard they have had to measure learning. I know I am not the only HR professional or hiring manager that knows the degree isn’t an effective measure of your skills and capabilities. I doubt any effective hiring manager is making offers on a degree alone. But that is all most of us have known. Or it was anyways. Now we have Degreed.

Imagine if you could demonstrate everything you learned since your degree. All of the relevant articles, papers, and books you have read that equip you to succeed in your job. Imagine a record of the conferences, webinars, and workshops you have attended that have helped you prepare for the job you want. If you could represent that to your organization, or future employers, wouldn’t that be more valuable than saying you have a history degree from 10 years ago? Wouldn’t you want that Corporate Recruiter to understand what you have learned in since? That’s meaningful and something that I would want to hear about when interviewing you. Meet Degreed.

So what have you been learning since you graduated?

Written by David Verhaag