Career Development

The Graduated Freshman

I’m learning much more than I ever thought I would by working in the Registrar’s office of a local university. Dealing with some of these students and phone calls puts everything into perspective and prompts reflection and one question: Really?

Was I really that arrogant?

Was I really that sheltered?

Did I really think that the real world was roses and rainbows?

Did I really have no concept of professionalism?

I like to think the answer to these questions is no, but I was young and immature and, quite frankly, I probably was too idealistic. In fact, I still am. But I also have more experience and maturity and an understanding that these lessons are far more valuable than any college class. And I don’t need a paper to prove that.

I received a call from a pretty pissed off student this morning saying that she had received her diploma, and although her degree was listed, her major was not. I explained that our school only puts the degree because the diploma is, essentially and for all purposes, an award certificate for the student. Not my decision, I just have to adhere to it.

But, the student then tried to protest, what if I want to send my diploma to a prospective employer?¬†They won’t know what major my degree is in.


No, I mean, really?

So, you’re telling me that instead of sending in a resume upon which you should put your degree and major, you’re going to send in your diploma? Or that an employer is actually going to take the time to request a piece of paper that is really meant to be your very own award certificate? Really? Ok, so maybe you want to send proof of your degree along with your resume. Are you really going to attach a copy of a certificate that could very easily be fabricted on any word document or online generator? Or, better yet, should you elect to laminate said diploma, are you going to cart it around with you, frame and all? Maybe you can make copies and put them on a business card and hand them out that way.

When you were applying to your university, admissions could care less about that piece of paper you had. What they wanted to see was your transcripts, which, by the way, verifies your graduation. The same is with employers — if an employer should, by chance, ask to verify your degree, they would a) call the school for degree verification or b) ask for a copy of your transcripts, which would have your major of study listed as well as the degree you earned (and your grades — better luck next time).

Except for a few instances where a diploma is actually requested by a potential employer, you will never need that piece of paper except to tack up in your office or to keep in a memory box. It’s a great momento — something to hold onto, to be proud of. But in the real world, employers want experience and working evidence. And if they need more verification, they’ll ask for it.

It’s hard when you first graduate, I’ll be the first one to shout that from any rooftop or mountain. It’s easy to think that by putting in four years of hard work, adhering to deadlines, staying awake in 8am classes, and studying hard for mid-terms and finals, you will come out holding a piece of paper in your hand that would show the world that you’re ready for them and that they should eagerly be anticipating you. You’re proud of that piece of paper and you want to show it off. And rightly so, you should; you earned it. What you fail to remember, however, is that there are 50,000 + other graduates who have a similar degree, possiby even the same qualifications, vying for the same job position with the same employer.

And I can guarantee that not all of them are attaching their diploma to their resume. Especially when you’re sending out a half a dozen resumes a day.

I can see how tempting it is when you first graduate from college. You want to show the world the knowledge you’ve attained for the $30,000 in student loans you’ve accrued. I never realized until now how much of a headstart I had by working through my college breaks. For three years I spent 3-4 months out of the year with a company who treated me not just as their summer and winter help, but as a part of their staff, and I was expected to act like one. I learned how to conduct myself professionally and gained the experience of being in an office setting. When I graduated from college, I was prepared. At least, more prepared than some. And when it was time to leave that job a year after graduation and pursue another opportunity, I let my resume and interview speak for itself.

Maybe I am doing it wrong. After all, I’m still looking for a job, sending out resumes…But that fact isn’t going to make me do anything different. What it comes down to is that all of these pieces of paper look the same. If a company wants you, it won’t be just because of your degree — it will be because of what you can offer them. And if they ask to see your diploma, great — you’ll have it in your memory box, ready if needed.

Until then, continue to be proud of it. And polish your resume.

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