Careers without degrees: Climbing the corporate ladder without university

Jessica Satherley
Careers without degrees: Climbing the corporate ladder without university
Is it possible to have a strong career without a university degree?

Is it possible to have a strong career without a university degree?  

Westpac NZ is launching a career programme for school-leavers without degrees and employment experts say many industries are de-emphasising university qualifications. 

“In New Zealand it is possible - some of our biggest companies are removing that as an entry point criteria,” says Janet Tuck, career management specialist at Career Clinic. 

Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at Westpac, Clare Montgomerie, says that there is a misconception that one needs a degree to work in a bank. 

“We are very happy to train people with the skills they need, so long as they have the right attitude and willingness to learn,” she said. 

“Unless you’re applying for a role such as an actual lawyer or accountant, we don’t focus so much on the actual qualification, as we do on the willingness to help people and go the extra mile, in line with the bank's vision. 

“Westpac looks for emotional intelligence and we’re starting to do emotional intelligence testing, which is the next level of psychometric testing, regardless of qualification,” Montgomerie said. 

“Our upcoming School Leaver’s Programme is also launching later this year, which is an initiative that gives school leavers an opportunity to get into banking without a university degree, so long as the applicants have finished their level 3 NCEA.

"It’s not just young high school leavers though who have the opportunity to build a banking career without a degree.  We welcome everyone regardless of age," she said.

Tuck says that even companies like Google and Apple are hiring employees regardless of university degrees, however the hiccup for New Zealanders might be if a degree is necessary for work visas abroad, she said. 

“But degrees are losing their currency quicker than ever, so regardless of a degree everyone is still needing to constantly upskill,” Tuck says. 

Tuck believes we are in a transition period, where continual upskilling is necessary as technology changes, and in another five years degrees might not be the entry point at all. 

“Universities are expensive and free online courses through MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are giving people a range of learning from a range of providers. 

“Young people are shaping their brand in a completely different way, but you still have to be a lot savvier if you don’t have a traditional degree,” she says. 

Tuck recommends getting into a company that is offering opportunities for growth and training. 

Networking is also crucial, especially for people over 50 who are looking for a new career opportunity, Tuck says. 

“As you get older the importance of networking and getting yourself known becomes increasingly important because your CV might give off a certain age. 

“But once people know you, people will know how relevant you are, so you’ll be on the front of people’s minds. 

“So, get networking,” Tuck said. 

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