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Career Q&A | By Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Lack of degree hinders job hunter

Q: Although I have no problem getting job interviews when I send out my resume, these conversations always end the same way. Interviewers praise my experience, but say they would prefer to hire someone with a college degree. I started this job search two years ago, and it's the same story everywhere I apply.

In 10 years with my present company, I have been promoted several times and received glowing reviews. My only reason for leaving is that I'm tired of being paid less than people who have degrees. I don't have time to go to school, so how do I get around this degree problem?

A: A college degree appears to be a widely accepted standard in your line of work. You've been able to rise through the ranks in your own company based solely on ability, but the lack of education puts you at a competitive disadvantage in the larger job market. This may not seem fair, but it's reality.

Your current problem is largely a matter of supply and demand. If people with degrees were in short supply, then your odds of being hired would be greater. But since today's tight job market makes more degreed applicants available, you're facing a lot of competition.

Some interviewers might be satisfied if you were simply enrolled in a degree program, so don't dismiss the education option too quickly. Many reputable, accredited institutions now provide courses online, and some may even give credit for work experience, so returning to school could be easier than you think.

But if more schooling is unrealistic, then you'll have to work around that limitation. You might target smaller companies with less rigid employment standards or take on contract projects to demonstrate your value to potential employers. But if you enjoy your present job, the best solution might be to convince management that your extensive experience warrants a pay increase.

Whatever approach you choose, the bottom line is that after two years of frustration, you should stop beating your head against this brick wall and start looking for ways to go around it.

Enlist help of boss

Q: The drama queen in our office reports to me. Unfortunately, my boss is always making concessions for her. How can I keep my manager from undermining my authority?

A: Your high-maintenance employee will never change as long as your boss continues to enable her, so the two of you need to get on the same management page as quickly as possible. The best strategy may be to simply ask your boss for help.

For example: "Whenever I give Marcy an answer she doesn't like, she goes to you for a different opinion. To keep us from contradicting each other, I would appreciate your letting me know when she comes to you with problems. That way, I can be sure that you have all the facts."

Difficult employees often play the game of pitting one person against another, so smart managers always try to present a united front.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics."

Lack of degree hinders job hunter 12/31/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:45pm]
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