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I speak to individuals every day who worry that their chances of a meaningful, well-paying career may be impossible to achieve without a college degree.  Though a college degree is an additional asset to entering the corporate world, it is not a necessity.  There are a plethora of ways to climb the corporate and career ladders without a degree, though it does take some time, self-reliance, effort, and a bit of luck.

 A college degree is not the end-all, be-all of a person’s future.  Though having a college degree is both helpful and beneficial to future success, it is not deterministic in a person’s capabilities. I would like to echo that point.  Just because someone does or does not have a college degree, does not mean that they are more or less capable than anyone else. 

Please re-read that line and fully internalize it.  Your self-worth and your capability is not determined nor will ever be determined by a degree. Though it may appear to be an uphill battle, you will need to search within yourself to acquire, secure, and advance in the career of your choice.  This will be something that only you can control and push yourself to accomplish and I hope that you do.

Networking

One of the essential skills in life is being able to network effectively and believe me that is not something that can be taught.  Being able to introduce yourself, to start a conversation, and to be well-liked extremely sought after in the corporate world. 

You should begin networking internally, with family and friends.  Reach out to members of your friends and family whom you respect and have good relations with.  Let them know your intent, that you are looking to make a career move or change and would like some advice.

I would caution against asking for a job from the get-go but asking for advice is always a safe bet.  From there, you can see if there any actionable items which can help you enter that job market. 

For instance, if your friend says that their most valuable employee has knowledge of a certain programming language, would it be possible for you to go out and learn that?

In addition, when networking internally, don’t be afraid to ask for advice on how you can better yourself and position yourself to work in a similar role or field.  Take down notes and send a thank you email or text, letting them know you really appreciate their help.

In addition, don’t be afraid to network outside your internal network. 

Striking up conversations in line at the coffee shop, while getting a haircut, or while at the gym may seem intimidating, but many people are happy to discuss what they do and offer advice.

If you’d like to be even more bold, offer to sit down over coffee, your treat, to pick their brain sometime.  You never know how connections can be made.

You should also tap into the powerful resource of LinkedIn.  With millions of members across the world, you can connect and network more effectively than ever before.

Certifications

One of the most beneficial things you can do for your career and future self is obtain certifications. 

With the internet, researching, applying, and completing a certificate class has never been easier.  However, you want to ensure that the certificate you achieve is one that will help you with your future career.

Really ask yourself, what kind of career are you looking for.  Once you’ve narrowed it down, you can search in Google for that career and certifications.  You’ll get direct answers and will be able to enhance your skillset before entering that market.

Alternatively, feel free to utilize LinkedIn.  Find users who are in careers you are interested in and reach out to them, requesting information on what certificates they believe will be helpful in their career.

Market Yourself

The ABC’s in finding a career or switching fields is Always Be Creative.  When you are looking to market yourself in an interconnected landscape, you need to find creative ways to do so. 

One of the best ways of doing this is by creating your own website, really showcasing your strengths and building yourself as an authoritative figure on that subject.

If it’s a subject you’re unsure of, then feel free to research beforehand and submit that information in easily digestible and understandable formats. 

You should always be looking to provide helpfulness in an area you’re interested in.  The probability that a future employer sees it and reaches out to you can be very high.

Become the Expert

More of a subpoint to the previous point, but there is almost no excuse not to learn something with the power of the internet at our fingertips. 

Nowadays, if there is a career that you are interested in, you can research every nook and cranny before even beginning that career. 

So, if you really want to make that career move, even without a degree, brush up on your studying skills and start taking notes on that new career. 

You should try and understand every aspect, acronym, issue, and grievance of the career you are looking to switch into before you even begin applying to it. 

This should be done for two reasons, the first is you don’t want to begin a new career that you absolutely hate. 

The second, is that this will give you an edge during any potential interviews.  Being able to speak clearly and intelligently on a subject in front of a future employer is a sure way to get an offer. 

In addition, if a future employer lists a grievance, you may have already found, and can offer, the solution.

Request an Internship

Though you may be tempted to think of internships as only for high-school and college students, they are more reserved for individuals looking to gain experience for little to no pay. 

Ideally, you would want to reach out to a hiring manager directly, stating your interest and enthusiasm in that career field and your willingness to intern for a set number of hours per week.

When approaching a hiring manager with this proposition, I would strongly advise going towards smaller companies with fewer employees. 

Some larger corporations have set rules on the definition of an intern (i.e. has to be a full-time student). 

In addition, reaching out to smaller companies will allow you to get more hands-on experience as they tend to be shorter staffed.   

Start Your Own Company

There’s nothing better than just doing it.  If you feel that your skills are sufficient and you can perform at a professional level and caliber, consider starting your own company offering those services. 

Keep prices slightly lower in the beginning as you build up your portfolio and list of clients and slowly increase as your reputation begins to precede you.

There are definitely risks involved in starting your own company or business and doing so should be carefully thought out.  Risks are typical in a business and being a one-person operation means you will be in charge of every aspect of the business.

However, if you feel passionate on a subject and would like to break-in, then it may just have to come from yourself.

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