How I Can Land a Job Requiring a Specific Degree Type Even When I Don’t Have the Preferred Degree?

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Rhonda from University of Maine asks:

“I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business with concentration in Healthcare, Business Management and Health and Wellness. I have reviewed various available jobs along with each position’s qualification.  It seems some of the openings require a specific degree. Can I apply for jobs that are asking for a degree that doesn’t specifically match mine?”

Thanks for your question, Rhonda.  The simple answer to your question is, “Yes, you can”. Consider that I have degrees and background in sports management, yet I was able to land employment as a trainer and career coach after doing some initial skills and experience building.  I’ve been in the field for 10 years and it is everything I hoped it would be.

If I can find success, you can too, especially considering you already have a degree that is at least closely aligned with jobs you are targeting.  I didn’t have a degree even close to my new career path when I transitioned into a new field.

It can be intimidating to apply for jobs when you may not have everything the employer desires in a candidate.  Don’t let this slightly less than 100 percent match get in the way of your objective.  When a goal is set and fueled by significant desire, then you’ll accomplish your objective if you don’t give up on the plan.

A recent National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey found that today’s employers value candidates with excellent communications skills in recent college graduates.  Employers know that recent college graduates may not always have all the necessary “hard” or learned skills needed for a job.  These employers will be more likely to hire a candidate who doesn’t have all of the relevant skills if the candidate possesses strong soft skills including excellent written and verbal communication skills.  Hopefully, these findings give you some additional hope as you develop your plan.

Below are some specific suggestions of things you can do to find employment opportunity even when you don’t have the exact major or degree type desired by employers.

Think Outside the Box – Be Creative

Following the same path as everyone else with your job search efforts can be counterproductive.  Utilize non-traditional ways to capture the attention of an employer and its hiring manager.  Consider adding informational interviewing to your job search plan. Through this initiative, you can identify individuals who are already doing the type of work you aspire to do and contact them to line up an informational interview.  Individuals, especially those working in your desired field, are the greatest resource to help you advance your career.  Connecting with established professionals in your field through an informational interview can allow you to get some great advice to help you build your career plan.  During the informational interview, you are looking for information and advice, not a job.  However, who better to be talking to than someone doing what you’d like to do?

Match Resume and Cover Letter to Position

Today’s job market is the best it has been in nearly two decades.  This doesn’t mean it is easy to find the right job.  It is extremely competitive as employers report receiving an average of 250 resumes for each corporate job opening.

It is incumbent upon the candidate to show the prospective employer how they meet the employer’s specific requirements for the opening.  You’ll need to make the most of the short time that an employer is reading your cover letter and/or resume by showcasing you have the skills, experience, education, accomplishments, and more to match their specific needs.  Recognize that the employer will not figure out that you have exactly what they desire in candidates without you making it obvious.

If the employer is looking for A, B, C, D, E, and F for a specific job, then highlight these things assuming you possess them.  The “one size fits all” approach won’t work so don’t waste your time sending documents that aren’t tailored to the specific job.

Tap Into the Power of Networking

Remember, people hire people, not computers.  We need the help of others to succeed both on the job and in life.  Networking (engaging with people) is, was, and will always produce the best job search results.  Embrace saying hello to others, while reconnecting with people you already know.  One of the first things you should do is let all of your friends, family members, and connections know exactly what type of job you are targeting and that you’d be grateful for any assistance that they can offer to you.  While some may not be able to provide you with a job lead, these individuals can also offer valuable tips, introductions, referrals, and more that can be a stepping stone to landing the job.

Make sure to grow your circle of influence and network by attending community events.  Join professional associations in your field to connect with others in your field.  Utilize LinkedIn to grow your virtual network, find posted jobs, connect with recruiters, further your value proposition through skills endorsements and recommendations, and join industry related groups.

Contact Your Career Center

Most colleges and universities offer career preparation services to recent graduates for at least a year after graduation at no cost.  Simply put, students should leverage their career center as it is a valuable student resource.  College career centers are staffed with knowledgeable, skilled, and credentialed professionals who can provide assistance in a variety of areas including resume review, interview skills training, job search strategy, and more.  Furthermore, they likely have a job site exclusively for current students and recent alums featuring jobs posted with the institution. Set up an appointment soon.

Target Employers, Don’t Wait for Jobs to Be Posted

Most job seekers mistakenly assume employers post all jobs online.  Employers are competing for talent similar to the way you are competing for jobs with other candidates.  Current data show that many employers find employee referrals as a great way to fill job openings.  Recruitment by referrals are utilized for over 25 percent of openings according to recent research.

Jobs won’t always be posted online.  So, I suggest that you reverse this thinking by targeting employers.  Don’t wait for employers to post available jobs.  Develop a list of 25-50 prospective employers in your area that may have opportunity in line with your skills, experience, education, and interests.  Do some additional research and determine a decision maker to whom you’ll address your letter and resume.  This is a great way to get your value proposition into the hands of the person with the power to start a dialogue and ultimately hire you.  Companies are always hiring.  The downside is that they may not always be hiring on your timeline.  Get to the employer before everyone else.

Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for jobs to be posted.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.  Remember, you only need one job.

Follow Up on Applications and Use Double-Hit Strategy

After applying online, most go into hope and pray mode as they hope and pray an employer calls them in for an interview.  Be proactive with employers by following up on all your applications.  If you are not being referred to an employer, the employer MUST receive, read, and value your application / resume before they will call you in for an interview.  If something fails along the way, then you won’t get the interview you desire.  Following up on your application can help you confirm that the company received your resume and find out any next steps or other valuable information.

Additionally, target market your value proposition to the hiring manager as well.  Research to determine who the decision maker is and craft a strong message to this individual highlighting how you can help them.  This is a great way to get your resume into the hands of the person who is making the hiring decision.  The first step is to apply through HR, then target the decision maker / hiring manager – the double-hit.  Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for a response.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.  Remember, you only need one job.

Treat Job Search as Full-Time Job

Wouldn’t it be great if you could accomplish a goal with little effort?  Yes, of course it would.  However, it is not likely.  Any goal worth achieving will take effort.  This is especially true as it relates to your job search.  Tons of job seekers convince themselves that they are working hard at their job search when in reality they are spending very little time to accomplish their objectives.  Put a full-time effort into your job search.  Spend 40+ hours a week moving your campaign forward.  You only need one job so build your plan and fuel it daily with consistent effort.  If you don’t give up on the plan, you’ll achieve your goal.

Putting It All Together

It can be a challenge when your education doesn’t fit an employer’s specific requirements.  However, you may have skills, experience, successes, and more that do match the positions specifications.  Don’t let your degree stand in your way.  Be creative, work hard, target market employers, and engage your network to highlight your ability to produce results in the job.  If the employer recognizes that you’ve met or exceeded all of their requirements, then they are more likely to see that you are a viable candidate for the job. You’ve got this, Rhonda!  Good luck and best wishes!

Here’s to your success,

Bob Nealon


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About the Author

Robert Nealon

For almost 10 years, Bob Nealon has been a South Florida-based career coach, focused on training and coaching college students and professional-level clients to achieve success in their employment search campaign and careers. He has trained over 5,000 clients with strategies on how to best compete in today’s ultra-competitive market to land the job and advance their career. Currently, he is a career coach at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Indiana University, a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Indiana State University and is a multi-credentialed career coach holding industry certifications as a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Certified Empowerment and Motivational Coach, Global Career Development Facilitator, and Florida Certified Workforce Professional. He is an active member of Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, Center for Credentialing and Education, Florida Association of Colleges and Employers, National Association of Colleges and Employers, and National Career Development Association. Connect with Bob via LinkedIn and Twitter.

Posted in: Ask the Coach, Career Exploration, Get Your Foot in the Door, Job Search Advice, Networking Advice, Resume Advice
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