Education: the fundamental shift of expectations


By Jared Kennedy
News Editor

There was a time when going to college meant sure employment. One who had a bachelor’s degree used to be a standout, and the four-year degree they obtained said much about their caliber.

Those days are over.

The upward trend of education ushers in a new standard for students in standing out to potential employers. Students now have to find a new way to stand out in the job market.

Sean Dunphy holds a doctorate of education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He says good communication skills can vastly improve a students likelihood of finding work after graduation.

“Standing out, to me as an employer, has always been a function of engaging demeanor, energy, communication skills and more of the “soft skills” of interpersonal interactions,” Dunphy said.

A question surrounding this shift is, “what means more, education or experience?”

Dunphy says an individual who can speak from a place of experience will have a definite leg up on anyone who only has a formal education. That being said, he maintains that communication skills can set people apart and act as a deciding factor for selecting job candidates.

“Being able to concisely answer questions, succinctly tell a compelling story, and balance a conversation by asking good questions in addition to having good responses has always made a candidate strong – regardless of other experience, training, degrees, or expertise,” Dunphy said.

With higher education now being the standard, students now have little choice but to place themselves in debt in order to get meet the required level of schooling.

UNO Environmental Health and Safety Officer Tyler Davis holds multiple master’s degrees and is in the process of earning a doctorate from UNO. Davis says the current situation with student loan debt is a crisis in the United States.“

There’s not enough focus on personal finance” Davis said. “People don’t know what they are getting themselves into when they borrow money.”

Davis stresses the importance of students seeking out financial aid and informing themselves on how to properly manage their finances. He says having a strategic plan with one’s education is key.

Dunphy says where a student goes to college is not of much consequence, and seeking out a less expensive college is key.  

“I think the most economical path to a credential is always the best,”Dunphy said. “No one really cares whether it’s from “University of Stuck ups” or “South side College.”

Dunphy emphasizes that making connections and networking will benefit an employee and make them more desirable to employers.

“Until the industry acknowledges that degrees don’t make the employee, we’ll all still have to play the game, But that’s what it is – a game,” Dunphy said.

Andy Walters is the associate principle at Avoca High School in Iowa. He is also in the process of receiving his doctorate in education. He says one of the best things a student can do is get a bachelors degree, work in their field, and then come back later for more education.

“A lot of the education a person receives is through doing the work they are looking to do,” Walters said. “By going to school the second time after gaining experience you know what questions to ask, and you know what your deficiencies are that need to be met through higher education.”

Dunphy says that performing duties with conviction and passion is the quintessential behavior of a good and hirable employee.

“When people are driven by their own internal motivation, they stand out as great employees and add to the culture of their workplace,” Dunphy said.

Walters says going forward there will continue to be an increased emphasis on education, a notion Dunphy agrees with, but sees no direct reason for such a shift.

“Uncertainty and the perceived security of having more options as a result of more education could be a major contributor,” Dunphy said. “Traditional wisdom could be driving more to seek degrees.”

The encompassing advice from all three professionals is to work hard and maintain a culture of excellence within oneself. With more students seeking higher education than ever before, it conversely takes more effort and attention for the best students to be recognized.


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