Credentials and Degrees Aren’t Enough

What you’ll need most in competitive labor markets

Jesse J Rogers


Photo by Jasmine Coro on Unsplash

[disclaimer: I do not speak on behalf of my employer. Views are my own, expressed with AI assistance]

As a student, you often hear about the pivotal role of credentials and degrees.

We’re told they’re like passports to our professional journey, allowing us to access the good careers which can change our lives. That’s true, but it’s only part of the story. It’s becoming more and more apparent that merely earning a degree is not the golden ticket it once was.

In this article, we’ll discuss the structural reasons why academic credentials and technical certificates are necessary but not sufficient for the current marketplace. Then we’ll talk about some of the sources and tools that can illuminate your decision-making and help you prioritize where to focus your scarce time and energy. Lastly, we’ll outline an action plan to put yourself in the best possible position.

The Problem: Elite Overproduction

My dear Gen Z friends, you’re on track to becoming the best educated generation humanity has ever produced. But as a cohort, you also have record levels of anxiety and depression. Professor Laurie Santos’ The Science of Wellbeing in Teens has quickly became Yale’s most popular course because the need for positive psychology is so intense. It’s available for free on Coursera, and those who take the course note a measurable self-reported increase in happiness. The importance of cultivating a resilient, growth mindset deep within yourself cannot be overstated.

But psychology aside, a big part of the stress young people are under is from legitimate worries about your economic prospects. So why are things like tuition and housing costs skyrocketing? Why is it so hard to find high paying jobs that can earn a comfortable life, as compared to previous generations?

To better understand the situation let’s turn to Peter Turchin, a social scientist whose predictions of instability were met with mocking disbelief in 2010 when he made them, but have been thoroughly vindicated in recent years. In particular, we’ll talk about a concept he’s developed called elite overproduction.