Your Degree Doesn’t Mean You’ve Landed

Contrary to the belief of most fresh graduates, simply having a college/university degree will not get you hired. We need to break away from this idea that has been idolized for many past decades. In all reality, most start-up companies in the tech scene could care less where you went to school and what your qualifications were. However, papers are important but they are not everything!

In this era, getting hired in entry-level positions requires experience and fine-tuned skills, not a first class qualification. This is probably not what most hardworking students want to hear, but it is important to get things correct. Many students sacrifice skills in university at the expense of making it to the deans-list, which is important.

Many new college graduates enter their job search with a why-wouldn’t-someone-hire-me mindset just because they made it to the deans-list and got a GPA of 4.0. Honestly, I have never been a bright student, I just always made sure that I never scored too high to get noticed or scored too low to draw attention of my peers, and no, I wasn’t average. Probably, we might need a new adjective for that. Way before graduation, I already had a part time job, to be precise, 8 months before graduation! This was not because I was the best student in our class, I was not even near the top 5. Most employers aren’t going to take on an entry-level hire unless they’re certain they’ll positively impact the company.

So the real question for new graduates to ponder about is: What can you bring to the table that makes you worth hiring?

Here’s some food for thought for graduates aiming to enter the workforce:

1. Your degree isn’t a golden ticket but it is ticket. We need to put an end to the “silver spoon complex.” Simply obtaining a degree may only help you out if you’re planning to go the corporate route, where companies have more time and money to invest in training programs especially companies like Deloitte, KPMG etc. When we graduated, such companies came to recruit for entry level training programs, which attracted ten thousands of applicants. I figured right away that I wouldn’t fit in such an organization which values my grades more than my interpersonal skills and ethics.

I’m not a prophet. I’m not a teacher. I have no degrees. My degree is from the University of Life – Jamie Lee Curtis

At Solutech, we would much rather hire someone who has been freelancing as a mobile applications developer for three years than someone who has a master’s degree in computer science. These people are bound to be more passionate, driven, and profitable in the long run, as they know what it takes to build something and make an impact.

2. Experience beats grades. I started a small company Dcn Center when I was 20, a second-year student at The University of Nairobi. Throughout my university life, I ran my business on the side, in addition to doing part time freelancing programming works and projects. I skipped classes, and a lot of them, but looking back it was worthy.  Today, undertaking one internship isn’t enough to prove your experience to employers. The reason so many college graduates can’t find work is because they lack experience, or better put, they have a very good packaged resume but cannot demonstrate any impact they have done on any company before, or just the community they leave in.

I would be very glad if I interviewed a candidate for a position and they told me that as much as they have not made notable impact on any work related stuff, they have done something for the society like charity work, volunteered the free time to a local school or started a mentorship program at their local church. That is a candidate I would hire because they have something that drives them.

Skill is the unified force of experience, intellect and passion in their operation – John Ruskin

One simple way to get more experience within your industry is by taking on freelance work and contracting gigs. These types of experiences will help you learn and grow while developing a sense of independence, responsibility, and drive. These traits are very attractive to any employer.

3. Teams are key to organizations. There is a reason lecturers give out group works in campus. This is always key in helping any student to unearth how to work with their classmates towards a common objective. I keep saying memes of “At my funeral I want my group members in campus to carry my casket to the tomb so that they can let me down one final time”, which is sad because literally, every company relies on teams to work on projects.

It is a duty of any new employee to understand how to work with the teams that they have been assigned and make sure that they create a good team spirit.

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success – Henry Ford

4. Being passionate is key. If you’re just looking to get hired anywhere, employers will be able to tell. Some weeks ago we set on a journey to look for a very good android developer to join our team as an intern. The interesting thing was that we could easily know which candidates who were just looking to get hired. It is very easy to know if a potential candidate has any passion for what they do.

Passion will get you hired. Experience is one way to showcase this, but you also have to learn to properly articulate it on your cover letter, resume, and during networking. You should always write a new cover letter and resume for each job application you have. It sounds awkward but every vacancy is unique and needs to be treated so and tailor your application to suit it. If you use the same cover letter for every employer, do you really think you’re conveying your passion for the position you’re applying for? Remember, it’s not just about looking for a job. Employers want employees who are truly passionate about what they do and have a vision to benefit the company.

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. – Albert Einstein

5. Do not stick to what you were hired for. The biggest problem with many fresh graduates in this era is, very few would dust the office if the cleaner never reported for duty for a couple of days. Most confine themselves to what is in their job description which ideally stagnates their growth. If you work with a team handling different projects, get to know what everyone else is doing, the challenges they are facing, the breakthroughs they have had and the learnings they have taken so far. Make coffee for the team, run errands, volunteer to dust the desks etc. It is the small things people will remember you for, and that’s making a positive impact.

6. How much impact do you think you can make?. Before you apply for any vacancy, ask yourself the following:

What can I do for this company? How can you I make this company better?

If you aren’t able to answer these simple questions, then don’t apply. Employers especially small businesses and startups are very critical to any new team member lest they disrupt the growth of the company and are only interested in hiring someone who is going to positively impact their company.

Make the effort to prove to employers you’re worth hiring.

7. Go the extra mile. Success doesn’t come to those who wait. You have to give everything you do your all. Sometimes I watch footballers giving it their best shot until the last minute, even sometimes when they are one goal down or two. You have to be prepared to go this extra mile, even if it means working late or on the weekends.

I cannot remember the last time I never worked on a weekend or slept before midnight. It is not about trying to make ends meet but making a positive impact at Solutech.

If you want to succeed at any job, make yourself invaluable. Go the extra mile; make them never be able to imagine what life without you there would be like – Ross Mathews


What do you wish someone would have told you before you graduated college?

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