Why not a degree?

Subject: Why not a degree?
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 21 Sep 1996 07:38:00 EST

As an employer myself, I have to say that I'm often happier interviewing
somebody with a degree, because I have to ask myself why a candidate for a
position that requires analysis, communication skills and a wide range of
knowledge DIDN'T get a degree.

Oh, I know there are reasons. Funds were low, family needs pressed in from
the sides, lack of time, incompatibility with personality quirks. But I got
my degree under these circumstances, and so many, many of my compatriots.
And the experience was deeply valuable to me today.

Probably the most common reason for not getting a degree is that the
candidate considers himself to be good enough as is, and no college can
improve him. Bosh and balderdash. I have wide experience, a four-year
degree, and I keep myself running all the time keeping up with things I care
about. Yet I still sometimes feel like returning to campus just to soak in
the hot tub of knowledge that I find there. College can't guarantee a good
candidate, but I have to wonder why anybody would intentionally pass it up.
Often it's because the candidate is a free spirit, a maverick. Fine. But
there is only room in my organization for so many mavericks, and the two at
the top already fill most of the quota.

In short, just the act of getting a degree reassures employers. Most
employers, though employees may not know it, are taking enormous gambles
hiring anyone. Given tax laws, harassment laws, and other federal and state
requirements, it's much harder to fire than to hire. And the damage you can
do to old customer relations is terrifying. A degree is just one more panel
on the security blanket. At least the graduate cared enough about
appearances to cater to employers' timidity. If the candidate disdains that
timidity, will he also disdain the fears, concerns, or resistance of the

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
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