CERTAIN professions such as law, accounting and medicine demand minimum qualifications and practical expertise as an entry requirement but it is less straightforward for non-professional industries.

A formal education lays a sturdy foundation but it cannot prepare you for every eventuality in the corporate world. Academic qualifications should be combined with industrial experience. Job seekers and employees should sharpen their skills to stay relevant and employable.

Here are some tips on how to achieve the perfect balance between education and experience.

Beyond book learning

Workers are not clones and they bring different talents to the table. Ruling out prospective employees because of a lack of formal education limits the possibility of potentially hiring a star.

Being less academically inclined does not make an individual less qualified for a job. What he may lack in scholastic aptitude may be compensated with street savvy, giving him a competitive edge.

As businesses change with market forces, so do job requirements. To keep up, workers should take courses to boost their qualifications and widen their career options.

Sales, marketing, journalism, customer service and high-end office-support such as executive assistant positions are some examples of careers that are becoming more accessible with training.

The perfect fit

Recruiting new staff requires time and money, and businesses want to make sure they hire the right people. The business manager usually has a list of essential requirements and an optional list of characteristics that gives an applicant added advantage.

A candidate with the perfect qualifications, for example, may not be the perfect fit for the organisation. Yet another candidate with impressive skills and industry experience but no formal qualifications may work more cohesively with the team.

Do not be discouraged by a position that asks for higher qualifications than what you have. Assess whether your experience and skills compensate for what you lack in formal qualifications.

Your experience, attitude to work and general demeanour are factors to be considered. Ask yourself why you are interested in a particular position and what you know about the industry or business.

Keep learning

Undergoing professional training can refine existing skills and make you more attractive to your present or potential employer.

If you have made the decision to invest the time and effort in undergoing training, ensure that the course meets the requirements of the position or future position that you aspire to.

When applying for a job, read the job description and requirements carefully. It tells you the skills, experience and education your potential employer is looking for and gives you a sense of the culture of the company. These may persuade or dissuade you from pursuing the job further.

While it is important to play to your natural strengths, you should not neglect your weaknesses either. Take courses that align with your industry and career goals at least once a year. Keep up with industry news, subscribe to an industry newsletter, attend forums and develop industry contacts.

If you have the education but not the experience, seek a mentor who has had a similar career progression as your own and ask him for his advice.

The changing nature of the workforce today is seeing more people embark on different careers and moving between jobs than ever before. This trend is reflected in the fact that qualifications are not the only prerequisites to securing a position in certain industries.

Employers are realising that experience, attitude and cultural fit are all factors that weigh heavily in the decision-making process of hiring a new employee. Be positive, focus on your talents and strengths, and research how you can improve your skill set.