Getting a College Degree Will Not Make You an Expert

Don’t be scared by this title. I am not about to discount the thousands of dollars you are spending or have spent on your undergraduate degree. I am going to share my view on your first four (sometimes five) years of college and what it is and what it is not.

I have always believed that getting a Bachelor’s Degree does not make you an expert in anything. Think about it, like a smorgasbord you take a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Basically whatever the specific institution deems will make you a well rounded person (some music, some art, a little literature, and some math if you can’t avoid it like I did). Eventually you figure out what you want to do with your life and focus your studies in a specific genre or major. You write a few papers, a couple of presentations, and maybe complete an internship. Despite this, an expert you have not become. Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book “Outliers” that it takes 10,000 hours of consistently performing the same work before you become a true expert.

Now don’t get discouraged. Yes, you have brushed the surface in a topic or field of study that interests you and may become your career choice. However, you have gained some other skills that I feel are even more important to your overall life and education section on your resume.

  1. Resilience – You have shown the world and future employers that you have the ability to finish what you start. That is critical, we live in an age where folks quit before they uncover their greatness or give up when the going gets tough.
  1. Adaptability – When you finish a four (or five) year degree, it is very likely that along the way you had some bumps in the road, maybe it was a very difficult course or a messy roommate. Regardless of the hard knock itself, you have overcome some things and that is something to be proud of.
  2. Social skills – Of course we all knew the loner that just showed up to class and ate all their meals in their dorm room; however, the overall majority of people found something they were interested in doing or being a part of and put their vulnerabilities out there to be a part of the group. Because of this, you have created some important social skills that will prove valuable in the future.
  3. Leadership skills – Perhaps you also became so passionate that you took on leadership roles in these organizations. You shared your passion with others, you recruited new members, perhaps you budgeted and allocated funds or raised funds in order to further the organizations mission. Perhaps you even created your own organizations and left a legacy. These skills translate well into the work world.
  4. You know a little something about a lot of things – There is purpose to those general education and elective courses. You either learn something about yourself that you didn’t know or you learned things about topics that you weren’t previously aware of. Either way, you have been enlightened for a lifetime and bring more depth to future conversations. Never stop learning in this space even after you graduate. Read articles and books, take classes, and partake in conversations where you aren’t the expert.
  1. Networking – If I had to put a monetary value to any of these that I have just mentioned, this would be the money-maker. Let’s look at Harvard for instance with over 371,000 living alumni, the University of Virginia with 230,000 living alumni and even a private historically women’s college (prior to 2017) like the institution I graduated from, Mary Baldwin University, has over 16,000 living alumni. Regardless of the size, it’s a network. A network of people who have similar experiences, a natural fondness and connection, and what’s even more important they have travelled down the road you are traveling and can help you achieve your career goals. How do you tap into these resources?

    Attend alumni events

    Seek out alumni connections on LinkedIn specifically in your field

    Know the people in your career or organization who are fellow alum

    Become a mentor to current students or other young alumni

    Keep up with faculty and professors

    Be a giver, not a taker — share your knowledge and experiences

So again, your Bachelor’s degree will not necessarily make you an expert in the field but it will provide you with some critical skills that will help you be successful. Further, it will lay the groundwork for either your matriculation into a Master’s and/or PhD program or into the world of on the job experience. So though you might not be an expert yet, you will be. Give it time and never stop learning.

I’m not an expert either,

Nerissa the BizEMillenial

About the author:

Nerissa is an Executive in Corporate America and has been leading teams for the past 10 years. In her spare time, she is a social media junkie and loves to read, write, and travel. She is a wife and mom of four. Continue the conversation on Instagram. Please note these opinions are my own and authors and academic institutions mentioned in this blog were not contacted to endorse this message.

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