Bad credit? No degree? Learn how to overcome potential disqualifications in your job search

Dear Sam: After 12 years, in just a few weeks, I will finally graduate from college. In addition to completing what I started, my goal in completing my accounting degree is to further my career. However, I am concerned about my financial situation and the impact it may have on my job search. Years ago I got caught up in the real estate boom and invested time, energy and a lot of money into buying, rehabilitating and renting out several properties. Unfortunately, the good times didn’t last long and I fell prone. Everything that was invested was destroyed, including my credit, which now includes a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and six mortgage foreclosures. I should note that before I invested my credit score was in the 780s. I’m afraid all the work I put into getting my degree will be in vain when an employer withdraws my credit report. . Is there a way to gently handle this situation? Do I “prepare” potential employers for what they will find once they notify me that my credit report needs to be withdrawn? If it helps, none of the debts included in the bankruptcy were consumer debt; it was all the debt accumulated by investing. – Steve

Dear Steve: As you apply for accounting positions, I imagine your credit report will be checked more often than not. You’ll want to prepare employers for what they find by explaining your situation like you did to me. You may even want to develop a written account of the situation in case the interviewer you are explaining to is not the one making the decision. Would it be possible to get a credit reference from your bank or another institution where you have had a satisfactory record? It can be helpful to have “validation” that your personal finances have been handled appropriately from your deposit. I believe that with a professional and honest statement, coupled with a third party validation of your financial management skills before and after bankruptcy / real estate boom, you will put yourself in a better position. I wish you much success and congratulations on your next graduation!

Dear Sam: I have a hard time finding positions to apply for that don’t require or prefer a college degree. I only attended college for a little over a semester, but had a very successful career in accounting. Today, as a controller of a mid-sized company, I am looking to apply for CFO positions. I have always been recruited from job to job or promoted internally, so this is the first time I have to look for a job. When reviewing job postings, I find that most require a degree. Unless I go back to school, which I don’t want to do at this point in my career, how can I find jobs that don’t require a degree and still meet my career aspirations? – Richard

Dear Richard: I can’t tell you how many top finance and accounting candidates I’ve worked with who are in the same position. I think the short answer to your question is that you don’t need to find positions that don’t require a degree. There is no reason why you cannot apply for the opportunities that you find, regardless of the academic requirements. As a seasoned and accomplished financial professional, you can argue that the lack of a degree shouldn’t even play a role in the decision-making process of whether or not to involve you. Very few, if any, candidates applying for jobs are “fully” qualified. If we only applied for jobs for which we met all the qualifications, we would have very few applicants. Haven’t you heard that it’s not always the most qualified candidate who gets the job? This is often the candidate who looks the best on paper – think of the accomplishments and added value over the course of their career, not the college degrees of years past – and focuses their attention on what they offer, not on potentially disqualifying factors. By this I mean promoting your accomplishments, showcasing your career growth, and maybe even not listing a section on education as that will only highlight the lack of a degree. In my experience, rarely do I have a candidate in your situation who has had the lack of a degree hinder their research when the research is rooted in a sharp and compelling CV. Good luck.

Samantha Nolan is an advanced personal brand strategist and career expert, Founder and CEO of Nolan Branding. Do you have a CV, career or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at [email protected]. For more information on Nolan Branding services, visit or call 888-9-MY-BRAND or 614-570-3442.

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