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How to Write a Resume If You Don’t Have a College Degree?

How to Write a Resume If You Don’t Have a College Degree?

 No degree? No problem!! A lack of a degree shouldn't stop you from creating your resume and applying for prospective jobs. Even though employers historically have preferred candidates with college degrees, more and more employers are understanding that degrees don’t guarantee skills. They are valuing experience and other soft skills. There are a few ways you can set your resume apart and get selected for your desired job over candidates that have college degrees. 

1. Select the Right Resume Format

 An employer or HR manager gets hundreds of resumes for a single job. These busy professionals only look at each resume for just a few seconds. The average tends to be 7-15 seconds. People make snap judgments and often don't even read the full resume. 

Therefore, it is extremely important to craft your resume in a format that is easy to read where your skills and experience are highlighted in chronological order. Stick to a traditional format. Avoid pictures, multiple columns, logos, etc. Companies typically use automated tracking systems (also known as the ATS). These systems may have trouble scanning resumes. If the systems can’t scan your resume, you have a lower chance of getting through. 

Focus on your experience and achievements. Do not downplay them. Make sure you put numbers on your resume. Here are some examples.

  • take a lot of daily phone calls vs take 50-75 phone calls daily
  • handle a large volume of cash vs handle $5K-$10K in cash

The numbers give an idea of how busy you are. Numbers are easier to visualize. What does large even mean? Large to you may be extremely large to someone else. 

Put your education section at the end so that your skillset and prior experience makes the lack of a degree an afterthought.

2. Customize Your Resume and Tailor Your Resume According to the Job Role

 Your resume isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to all job roles you apply for. It is extremely important to understand that. 

Customize your cover letter with all the specific qualifications and accomplishments that match the job description. It should be short, clear and job-specific. A beautiful cover letter enhances your chance of getting selected.

Next, customize your resume according to the type of position you’re applying for. It is extremely time-consuming to customize your resume for every single job. A lot of job postings may be already gone by the time you see them. They may already have someone in mind or are hiring someone internally. It is not strategic. 

So customize your resume for each role type, not each job.  For example, if you’re an analyst, you need one business analyst resume and another resume for a technical analyst role. Don't customize your resume for every business analyst job you see.

Unless it is your dream company. In that case, customizing your resume for that specific job is a great idea! Here’s what to keep in mind:

“Get under the skin” of the company. Skillfully draft your resume to make it relevant to the position. The following two tips are very important when drafting your resume:

(i) Know Your Company - Start by researching the company. For this, go to their official website and read about them, their vision, mission, and check out their social media presence. The investor relations document has a lot of great information. It will also teach you a lot about the industry and help you gain knowledge about their competitors. 

Read all the recent news about them. Linkedin is a great way to get connected with their employees and know what kind of people they’re looking for. You will learn about what qualities they look for in their prospective employees. This will give you a bird’s eye view of the company, its goals, and challenges. You will start learning about the most important qualities that they are looking for from their new hires. 

(ii) Investigate the role you’re applying for - Research and investigate the role or position you’re applying for, the duties, responsibilities, nature of work, and goals of the departments. After understanding these things, customize your resume so it’s easy to see that you possess the right skills on your resume

3. Write a Persuasive Career Summary

 Your resume should begin with a compelling professional summary about yourself. This summary should be short and must showcase why you’re an excellent fit for the role and how you’re unique. Try to include the common buzz words in your summary. If you need to customize your resume, this is an easy spot to swap out words without affecting your resume 

Focus on your accomplishments and the things you are most proud of. Your career summary should be a punch-line that impresses the employer quickly and compels them to move forward. This will make them read your resume with more interest.

If you have any specific awards, certifications, accomplishments, or credentials that are relevant to your job target, mention them in your career summary. Also mention it in other parts of your resume. This will help leave a long-lasting impression in the mind of the employer. It will also help you with the automated systems since these systems rely on keywords.

4. List Your Skills

 Every job posting lists the experience they want and the skills they desire for the job. Once you have researched the company, the position, and know what skills are necessary to get selected, tailor your resume in a way so your skills match the description posted by the employers. (This doesn’t mean you’ll lie about the skills you have.)

This will also help you in passing the ATS system. Choose the right keywords and phrases as used in the job description.

Your skills are your asset and will be an asset for the company. Your skills should persuade the employer to choose you over a candidate having a college degree.

5. Highlight Your Relevant Past Experiences

 This is THE prime section of your resume. The employer will judge you and select you based on relevant past experiences. Experience counts and you can move ahead of your competitors by showcasing the things you have done. In this section, you have to tell the employer what you offered to your previous employers. What did you do for them that stood out? What impact did you have? You have the tools and experience, just make sure you highlight it properly.

When it comes to highlighting your professional experience, put your best foot forward, and make every word count! Your language should show that you have industry knowledge. If you do it properly, it won’t matter as much that you don’t have a college degree.

6. Highlight Your Accomplishments

 If you have credentials, awards, or publications that are worth knowing about, make sure you have a section under your experience. This just makes you look like an even better candidate. Here are some examples:

  • Awards - State any awards that you have received for achieving a target. Eg. Won Best Salesperson in the State.  
  • Publications - If you have published articles or research papers in your area of expertise put them here. You can put blog articles that you have written. All this should be mentioned.It adds another layer of credibility to your resume.
  • Presentations - Your presentations highlight your communication skills. Mention seminars, workshops, podcasts, and other speaking opportunities that you have participated in. Mention how many people were in the audience. Larger audiences are more impressive.
  • Competitions -If you have participated in renowned competitions like debates, product launches, etc. mention them as they emphasize your soft skills.
  • Professional Memberships and Organizations - This is another thing that will set you apart. It will show that you have initiative and are a professional. It is also a great way to network and meet people who can give you guidance or referrals.

7. Emphasize Alternative Education and Courses

 With the rise of e-learning platforms, formal learning has taken a back seat. Focus on writing about the skills you developed from different learning platforms/institutions. This is a great way to get training and enhance your career development. 

You can list the online courses you have taken in a section called “Skills and Interests”. List your certifications, conferences, seminars, workshops, webinars, and other things that will set you apart.

This section should be recent and up-to-date as this helps increase your credibility.

8. Follow-up on your resume applications

 A lot of job applications may require you to have a specific degree. Don’t let this deter you. Apply. You have nothing to lose. 

A lot of times, your application may get rejected because of the ATS system. Sometimes it automatically rejects applicants that don’t have degrees. Follow-up on your applications. Go on LinkedIn and try to figure out who can put you in contact with the hiring manager. Make sure to personalize your request and be respectful.

Bonus Tip:

As a professional, your professional network can be your biggest USP while applying for jobs. So, build your profile and establish your presence on a professional platform like Linkedin.

In conclusion...

Ultimately, if you know the kind of job you want, start upskilling to make your resume stronger. Once you've boosted your resume, start sending applications out. 

Hopefully, these tips and your research gets your resume into the hands of an employer. Remember, a degree can only bring so much. Focus on your skills, knowledge, experience, and accomplishments. 

Go apply and get those interviews!