A Degree Doesn’t Mark the End of Our Learning, Rather the Beginning

Musings from Gen Y

It seems to me, that there is a misconception in my generation that a degree is the finish line of learning. But, it isn’t until we arrive at that finish line, expecting that all of the hard work is behind us, that we realise what we thought would be a small step into the working world is in fact a giant leap on a long and winding path that is our career.

With that path in front of us, we do what we have always have, put our heads down and take a step forward. But, for many, we are itching to run not meander. We have spent years getting to the road, we want to make headway as soon as we can. With a new, shiny, up-to-date skillset that has just been minted we want to put these to use, test the things we have learnt and show everyone what we can do. Unfortunately, this often doesn’t marry up with our employer’s intentions of “getting a good grounding”.  

Nowadays, over one in five New Zealand adults have a degree, up from 15.8% in 2006. A degree no longer guarantees us a job, instead it seems a prerequisite for securing a job interview. The competition can be fierce; there may be hundreds just like you, passed, with a small amount of work experience, ambitious and a “can-do” attitude. For many we jump at the security a job can provide with little thought to whether this is the right job with the right opportunities.

Once we have our foot in the door, it is often when we find a mismatch of expectations of what we will be doing versus the reality of our daily tasks. With a graduate hire, employers tend to adopt a “coming off a base of nothing” attitude to our knowledge levels. This can mean we find ourselves with our days filled with menial tasks that we could have tackled in year one. This leads to us feeling underutilised, undervalued and over educated.

This combined with being at our most ambitious stage of our lives we start to believe the grass is greener elsewhere and for many of us it doesn’t take long to seek a new opportunity.

This isn’t a beneficial situation for either the employee or the organisations we now work for.  I can’t imagine any organisation that doesn’t want high-performing and ambitious employees, so here are some thoughts on how graduates and businesses can work to a more mutually beneficial relationship.



1. Stand out from the start – take the time in the beginning to showcase your full skillset. Make sure your CV highlights the areas you excel at and you are passionate about as well as articulating your aspirations and goals for the foreseeable future. Having a point of difference is key here while still being attractive to read, www.novoresume.com is great online resource for this.

2. Do your research - ensure you research the company you are wanting to join before applying for the job. Use the opportunity in your interview to ask questions to extract information on development opportunities, career planning and specifics about the roles responsibilities and daily tasks.

3. Ask and you shall receive – the worst thing you can do is suffer in silence. Put your hand up and offer to assist your colleagues on projects that provide the opportunity for growth and exposure to things your role may not traditionally see. Tell your manager of your desire to learn and take on more responsibility, you’ll be surprised what an honest conversation can deliver.



1. Do your research – ensure you have up-to-date knowledge of the skills and required abilities graduates leave each relevant course with. And utilise them. Recalibrate the tasks and responsibilities of graduate roles to match their level of experience – you will be surprised how much they change over time.

2. Create a culture of continued learning - no matter what age the dog, there is always an opportunity to teach it new tricks. A culture of learning within any organisation encourages continuous upskilling, employee loyalty and a lengthened tenure. It is often when an employee feels there is no development opportunities that they search for alternative employment, don’t prompt that to happen.

3. Got a plan? Share it – Everyone wants to know what the future holds. If you have a development plan, promotion or timeline of movement share it with your employees. Laying out a clear progression plan with goals, targets and strategies on how to get there allows employees to focus on that and not on moving somewhere else.