Conventional wisdom is that the sure-fire way to land your dream job is by earning a four-year college degree. But the reality is that many of the rewarding and well-paying jobs today do not require a university degree at all.
I’m talking about jobs in technology, healthcare, communications, infrastructure, pharma, customer service, even fintech and government services. Many of these demand skills that can be acquired in far less time and for far less money than a college degree. Apprenticeships, certification programs, and online learning platforms allow you to learn new skills affordably, or in many cases completely free. You can focus on skills that are tailored to your specific career goals, whether you’re looking for your very first job or embarking on a career change at any stage in life.
Here is how can you land your dream job in 2021, with or without a college degree.
Do Your Research, Tap Your Networks
Research different occupations and the pathways to get there. If you’re unsure which career you want to get into, explore jobs in one of these six industries that humans will always need: education, health, shelter, energy, entertainment, and food. Look at industries that serve these, such as the way that transport serves the food industry, and how telecommunications serves entertainment.
Take stock of what skills you have and determine what new skills you need to pursue your chosen path. Consider modern apprenticeships. They’re a great way to combine work and study, and can present opportunities for further applicable education.
Keep close to your existing networks and develop new ones. Let people know you’re looking for work or considering a career change. Communication is key. Make and refresh connections with people and companies you’re interested in.
Craft a Plan, Stay Nimble
Be aware that the business model of your chosen industry is likely to change over the next 12 months. Find out what skills and capabilities will be required during this transition and how you can adapt accordingly.
Digital skills will be crucial: Covid-19 has expedited the move towards technology- enabled, remote delivery of services. To keep up, workers need to upgrade digital literacy skills and master the digital platforms used by their company.
Find out what skills you will need to acquire or upgrade for your chosen path — and make a plan to do it. Sites like Udemy, Khan Academy, Udacity, Coursera, and EdX (to name a few) offer a dizzying array of free and low-cost courses you can do from home, some of which come with certifications.
Always be nimble. Flexibility and adaptability have never been more important, no matter the job or industry. Periodically reassess your plan, take on feedback, and keep a watching brief on your chosen industry or career. Adjust your strategy with the times.
Make It Easy for Them to Hire You
Help time-pressured managers to make an instinctive hiring decision by reading the criteria thoroughly and responding directly to the employer’s needs in your application or cover letter. Create a skill-based resume and customize it for the job you are seeking.
Be persistent. Many companies are overwhelmed. Don’t just wait by the phone for them to call you back. Instead do a quick call within the week to make sure your application was received.
Prepare for online interviews and meetings by practicing in advance. Make sure you have proper lighting and a neutral background with no interruptions. Do practice interviews with a friend to get comfortable conveying eye contact and presenting yourself well through the medium of your camera lens.
Some tips on keeping the job once you get it:
- Choose a better response when things get tough. When receiving difficult feedback or struggling with a new challenge, find opportunities to improve and seek out help where you can rather than going on the defensive.
- Note the highlights in each day and week for you. Keeping focused on the positive will help you stay motivated to respond better in more challenging moments.
- Try to achieve more each day than you did the day before. Instead of resting on your laurels or doing the minimum required, look for opportunities to be a bit more productive or bring something new to the table every day. Continue pushing your growth edges.
- Know your limitations and boundaries. Be realistic in your expectations of yourself rather than struggling to over-achieve.
- Remember the value of your soft skills. Your value at work is not limited to your technical, job-specific skills. Far more than that, your employer and colleagues will appreciate your self-presentation, punctuality, enthusiasm, strong work ethic, co-operation, humility, and resourcefulness.
- Find humor in your work.
- Be willing to help others and be accountable. Being a strong team member and good collaborator is valued in every organization.