Every year, millions of people get college degrees. This wasn't always the case. Just a few decades ago, going to college wasn't for everyone. But today, it seems like a college degree is a must-have. Especially, if you want a higher-paying job. Why? More employers than ever before are making a college diploma a key requirement to being considered for their jobs. Even with the current low unemployment rate, companies don't seem to be budging on this. Look through the jobs posted online and you'll see "degree required" on more and more opportunities. So, what do you do if you're looking for work, have experience, but don't have a diploma?

First, understand why online job applications are a waste of your time.

The technology companies use to post jobs and gather candidate applications is designed to screen you out. Today, ATS (applicant tracking systems) weed through the hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications a company receives and chooses the most relevant matches. Studies show less than 3 percent of applicants online ever get called for a job interview. Given you don't have a degree and the employer is specifically asking for one, the odds are slim you'll get a call. Which means, all that time you spend tediously filling out each field in the online application is most likely a waste of your time. 

Then, build a strategy to go around the ATS.

Just because the job posting says it requires a college degree, doesn't mean you can't show them while you lack a diploma, you make up for it in skills and experience. The key is to get the opportunity to share that information with the right decision makers. At Work It Daily, we specifically teach job seekers how to go around the ATS in order to connect with real people. Given 80 percent of all jobs gotten today are via some form of referral, the phrase, "your network is your net worth" really applies in this situation. With that in mind, here are three steps you can take to make that happen:

Step 1: Build an interview bucket list. You need to research and target your job search efforts on companies that use your particular skills and experience. Think of your most valuable assets as a worker and match them proactively to those companies that need them. The tighter the match, the easier it will be for you to get them to look past your lack of a diploma.

Step 2. Craft a compelling story. You need to show how you are connected to the mission of the employer. Companies want to hire people who care about what they do. The more you can personalize your desire to work there by speaking to the impact the company's products or services have had on your life, the better the chances they'll dismiss the need for the degree. Passion trumps paper!

Step 3: Find, follow, and friend people who work there. Meeting and getting to know existing employees is the best way to have your personality and aptitude for the job validated by an insider. If you have one or more people saying, "I met her and she'd fit in here," the easier it will be for the hiring manager to bend their diploma rule. Reach out on social media or email to introduce yourself. Or, attend some networking events where you know the employer will be represented by some staff. It's up to you to get the relationship going.

P.S. - Lying about a diploma will come back to bite you.

Studies show instead of trying the three-step approach above, some people opt to lie about having a degree. A word of caution there. Recruiters are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they confirm data on a resume. If you claim to be a graduate and they find out you aren't, you'll be blacklisted. In my opinion, it's not worth the risk.