Career

3 Paper Qualifications That Mean Nothing If You Don’t Have the Skills to Back Them Up

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Joanne Poh

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In many fields, having a nice, prestigious paper qualification is enough to help you get your foot in the door. Sure, you’ll have to prove your worth on the job, and the stress and long working hours might be so brutal you’ll eventually leave of your own accord. But having a brand-name school and stellar grades on your CV will definitely give you a big boost (investment banking and law come to mind here as fields where an impressive CV helps).

But in certain fields, a paper qualification means nothing if you don’t have the skills to back it up. Worst of all, potential employers or clients will be able to see very quickly if your skills aren’t up to scratch. If you have a qualification in one of the following, stay on your toes, because if you don’t keep your skills sharp your CV might as well be printed on floral toilet paper.

 

Music

If you’re looking for a career in music performance or teaching, employers at conservatories, music schools and orchestras are not going to care about your impressive degree or diploma unless you can prove that you’ve got the skills to go with it. You will most definitely be asked to audition, and are expected to confident and accomplished on your instrument of choice.

Even if you’re merely applying for a job as a piano teacher at your neighbourhood Cristofori Music School, don’t think you’ll be able to sneak past the gatekeepers with your Grade 8 or diploma cert. A music teacher who can’t play or sightread well will be caught out within a matter of days.

 

Languages

There are too many people in this world who proudly flash glowing language qualifications despite being completely incompetent. Heck, even I managed to obtain a “pass in AO level Chinese” without being able to order a bowl of noodles at a hawker centre. Even if you have a degree in a particular foreign language, your skills will have to stand up to close scrutiny before you can get a job that requires fluency in the language.

Employers are all too aware that language students can reach a fairly high standard on paper without ever attaining true fluency. If you claim that you speak a particular language on your CV, be prepared for the employer to try to conduct at least part of the interview in that language. If you display any difficulties understanding what is said or can’t respond fluently, even the most impressive language degree in the world won’t get you hired.

 

Entrepreneurship

A qualification in entrepreneurship has been touted as one of the most useless out there. Unfortunately, becoming an entrepreneur is something that takes a lot more than simply attending a university course and then looking for someone to hire you. Not only have entrepreneurship courses at university level been slammed for being ineffective for students who enrol for the wrong reason, many of the world’s most famous founders made it big after dropping out of school altogether.

Starting a successful business is about a lot more than just learning how to analyse other businesses’ performance and replicate successful models. It’s about making connections with the right people, finding good people to work with and taking risks. And of course, no amount of schooling can give you the gumption to persevere when everyone else is telling you’re nuts, and when you’re slaving away for something that might never pay off.

Do you have qualifications in any of the above fields? Tell us what matters to employers in your field in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.