How To Succeed Without College

Updated February 16, 2023

If you're interested in starting your career without a college degree, there are actually diverse opportunities. From careers in trades to starting your own business, you can find professions that you're passionate about and that can support your career growth into the future. In this article, we'll cover how to succeed without college so you can achieve your career goals.

Related: Jobs That Don't Require a College Degree

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How to succeed without college

There are many opportunities to begin a meaningful and lasting career, even without a college degree. If you're interested in a career that does not require a college degree, here are several steps you can take to succeed in a profession without a college background:

1. Set achievable career goals

Think about where you want to be in your career in the future and set objectives that help you reach your career goal. Consider the type of work that interests you and what your desired income level is. Set short-term objectives and actionable steps that outline how you'll achieve your goal. For instance, if you're interested in marketing and want to earn an annual income of $50,000 per year, set goals that direct you towards this outcome, such as finding an entry-level marketing position that can help you advance to your desired career level.

2. Find career opportunities that don't require a college degree

Once you set your goal and outline the steps you need to take to achieve it, find jobs that you can take without a college degree. Depending on your passion and interests, you can find opportunities to enter a meaningful and satisfying career across many different industries. For instance, if you're passionate about helping and caring for others, you might consider a job as a medical assistant, which is a career option that doesn't require a college degree.

3. Consider a professional certification

Another option for entering your career without college is to obtain a professional certification in a trade or specialty like construction, health care and technology. For example, many construction professions don't require college, and you can find jobs in the industry that include roles in labor, office administration and customer service. A certification can require you to take special coursework that can vary in length depending on the profession and certification requirements.

4. Take online courses

Consider deepening your knowledge about a topic to advance your skill set. For instance, taking an online course that teaches you how to use computer coding to build websites can prepare you for a career in web development. This can lead to further opportunities to build websites for paying clients or entering a role in a technology company.

5. Assess your career aptitude

Understand your professional strengths and weaknesses and invest in your career development through assessing your aptitude. Take advantage of online skills assessments and professional aptitude tests to determine your greatest strengths and the skills you need to improve. These actions can help you figure out what kind of career fields your skills are best suited for.

Related: 8 Free Career Aptitude Tests for Adults

6. Learn and apply new skills

Develop new skills that can help you boost your hiring chances. For instance, if you're interested in a career as a sales representative, participate in skill development and training that teaches you effective sales techniques, customer service communication skills and other skills you need for your career field.

7. Learn from a mentor

Work with a mentor in the field you want to start your career in. Professionals who work in organizations that connect with the profession you're interested in can help you learn about the job, support your career development and assist you when you practice new skills. Additionally, a mentor can provide you with valuable feedback that you can apply to improve in skill sets and professional qualities you'll need on the job.

8. Get on-the-job training

If you work in an entry-level role, take advantage of on-the-job training to advance in your career. For instance, employer-sponsored training programs, professional development workshops and team building seminars can help you learn and develop your expertise. Your training can also help you advance into higher-level roles within your organization.

9. Work in an internship

Participate in an internship to learn about a particular job. For example, if you want to enter a career as a web designer, find internship opportunities that can help you develop your skills and learn how to perform essential job tasks. Internships also help you build professional connections who may be able to help you in your job search when you complete your internship.

10. Volunteer in an organization related to your career interests

Similar to an internship, volunteering can allow you to get an idea of what a certain profession is like. For instance, volunteering in a library can give you insight into what it would be like to work as a librarian. Similarly, volunteering can also help you make a good impression on employers, as it shows your initiative to perform meaningful work in your community.

11. Build a professional network

Network with industry professionals who work in similar roles to what you're interested in. For example, if you want to start a career in social media management, connect with digital marketing professionals who work with social media strategies and projects. Find ways to offer your assistance or contributions and opportunities to connect with potential employers.

Related: 10 Tips To Help You Network Like a Pro

12. Develop your business acumen

It's important to deepen your business knowledge, too, especially if you're considering starting your own business. Knowledge of budgeting, tracking expenses and promoting a brand are several approaches that you can take to improve your business sense. Additionally, developing your business acumen can increase your job opportunities, as you'll have the skills you need to perform a variety of administration and business tasks.

13. Study entrepreneurship

Consider entrepreneurship by building on business ideas or starting a business. You can also find online courses specifically for developing your entrepreneurial skills, which can be an advantage for growing a small business and contributing to other small businesses.

14. Invest and save your earnings

Invest your work income. For instance, high-interest savings accounts and investing in securities can help you build wealth into the future. You can also use your savings and investment earnings to go toward your professional development so you can keep advancing in your career.

15. Go into business with a partner

Consider teaming up with a partner to start a service business or create a product to sell. For instance, evaluate the needs of a particular market and develop services or offerings that can fulfill these needs. As you develop your business, you can reinvest earnings into promotional activities that can help you and your partner reach more customers and create a substantial and stable profit.

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