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Stepping outside of your comfort zone

BY SAMANTHA NOLAN Modified: July 27, 2012 at 1:49 pm •  Published: July 27, 2012

Dear Sam: I am struggling to find positions to apply for that do not require or prefer a college degree. I only attended college for just a little more than a semester, yet have enjoyed a very successful career in accounting.

Now, as a controller of a mid-sized company, I am seeking to get to the next level in my career and apply for CFO roles. I have always been recruited from job to job, or promoted internally, so this is the first time I have really had to look for a job.

When reviewing job postings, I am finding most require a degree. Barring returning to school, which I really do not want to do at this juncture in my career, how can I find jobs that don’t require a degree and still fulfill my career aspirations? – Richard

Dear Richard: I can’t tell you how many senior-level finance and accounting candidates I have worked with who are in the same position. I think the short answer to your question is that you do not need to find positions that do not require a degree.

There is no reason you can’t apply for the opportunities you are finding, regardless of the academic requirements. As a seasoned and accomplished finance professional, you can build a case that the lack of a degree should not even play a role in the decision-making process of whether or not to bring you on board.

Very few, if any, candidates who apply for jobs are “perfectly” qualified. If we only applied for jobs for which we met every qualification, we would have very few to apply for.

Haven’t you heard that it is not always the most qualified candidate who gets the job? It’s often the candidate who looks the best on paper — think accomplishments and value added during his/her career, not academic credentials from years gone by — and focuses attention on what he/she does offer, not potentially disqualifying factors.

By this, I mean promote your accomplishments, showcase the growth during your career, and perhaps don’t even list an education section as that will only highlight the lack of a degree.

In my experience, I have never had a candidate in your situation who has had the lack of a degree hinder his/her search when the search is rooted in a strong and compelling résumé. Best of luck.

Dear Sam: I need help figuring out where to start building my network. I hear, all of the time, that it’s not what you know, but who you know; having just relocated to the area — due to my spouse’s career — I’m afraid I’m quite light in the “who you know” category! As the new kid on the block, where should I start? – Paul

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