Let’s engage in a hypothetical situation: you’re in an interview for your dream job. The person interviewing you is the person who will make the final decision. They like you, but they have one sizable concern based on your resume: you lack the “required” educational experience for the role.
Now, you might not have the degree that this employer is looking for, but you do have more than a few digital badges that align with the subjects covered by traditional education. If given the same task as someone with a bachelor’s, you’re pretty confident you could complete it. The question now is, how can you convince your employer of that?
If they say you lack educational experience, politely disagree
You don’t lack the education to do this job—you simply lack the formal education. The cost of a traditional college education is sky-rocketing and though the conversation about student debt relief and possibly even forgiveness has been ramping up as well, that isn’t something most people are willing to count on. The fact simply is that a college education is out of reach for many.
So, confronted with that, you did the next best thing: you sought out a less expensive alternative and made use of the educational tools that were available to you. A digital badge is a representation of a learning outcome, experience, or competency. Badges can be shared and verified online in a way that is easy and secure. Badges link to metadata that provides context and verification. They can be shared across the internet for maximum visibility and recognition.
You can earn a badge for lots of different things, from many different organizations. What makes the badges issued to you unique is that they represent achievements valued by employers. So if you ever find yourself in a position where your educational experience is called into question, show the interviewer your earned badges.
Highlight your skills—and be specific
One of the regrettable things about college degrees is that they aren’t in and of themselves very specific about the education you received or how well you performed in school. Someone who over-achieved and earned a 4.0 grade point average gets the same degree as a student who did just enough work to pass. So reframe the conversation around the specific badges you’ve earned.
It might even be helpful to have a copy of the job description with you in the interview so if your experience gets called into question you can draw a direct line between your badge and the bullet-point outlining the skill that the posting was asking for. Data is hard to deny and while this method will by no means assure you the job, the interviewer will at the very least have to concede to your point.
A word of warning though, it’s important to always remain polite and professional in a job interview, so be sure you don’t come off as rude or defiant if you decide to take this approach. Instead, say something like “I anticipated you might be curious if I was qualified—let me show you how my badges line up with your job description.”
Earning badges means you do care about education
Finally, play to the angle that employers care most about: initiative. Explain why you earned badges instead of a college degree. Being open about the fact that college wasn’t an option for you isn’t likely to be a mark against you—and if it is, you probably wouldn’t enjoy this work environment anyway!
Earning credentials in the face of an obstacle shows determination and resolve on your part. It’s impressive, if anything because it shows that you have the drive to want to better yourself and learn new things of your own accord.
We’re slowly making progress in the fight to have employers recognize that a lack of a college degree doesn’t mean a candidate isn’t the right fit for a position. Hiring based on educational requirements is a form of bias just like any other and one that disproportionately affects people from marginalized communities.
So if you’re ever in a situation where you need to explain your digital badges, be prepared to do so. Presenting them well just might be the factor that earns you the job.