Do you know what one of the most common concerns I hear from clients?
“I don’t have a degree.”
Executive job seekers come to us to rewrite their resumes and in doing that we need to create their story. For some people, that does not include education. Or, they started it, the job got busy, and they never finished. It’s more common than you might think.
Many top performers we speak with have gone on to very successful careers despite not finishing their college degrees. Most started at companies and grew their way up the corporate ladder to reach high levels of success.
Not just our clients. Many famous people have done very well without a college degree.
Is A College Degree Always Necessary?
Why does an education matter? Obviously, it does for certain fields—medical doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc., but not all require it.
I recently conducted a poll on LinkedIn to see how many people actually used their college degree in their job today.
The poll had 11,845 votes and over 261K views.
30% said they use their degree every day.
34% said they do not use it and are in a different field.
36% said they use it somewhat.
So, only a third of the people who responded use their degree in their jobs every day. Yet, many companies (not all) still insist on a college education. However, in the comments, many recruiters admitted that the companies really didn’t care if they had education or not. The experience of the candidate would help be the deciding factor.
This tells me that while education does matter for certain jobs, most of the time companies are looking for the right fit.
One of my clients, “Dave” came to us to write his resume. He started at a small manufacturing company during his senior year in high school. His supervisor saw his drive and started promoting him from stocker, production associate, and production team leader to eventually securing more senior leadership roles like assistant manager and operations manager.
When Dave started at the company it had 13 employees and revenues of around $7MM. When he came to us, he helped grow it to 119 employees and $148MM. The ideas he implemented played a key role in helping this company grow to where it is today. He was ready to use his talents at another company and see where it would take him.
In the first few years he was with the company, he went to community college for two years but stopped after he got his two-year (associate’s) degree. He just didn’t have time for it while working at the company.
I see this happen so often with our clients—starting off young, helping a company grow to new levels, and yet, when it comes time to write their #resumes, they falter a bit, and their confidence dips.
According to Glassdoor dot com, on-the-job training and success matter more than a four-year degree. Corporate training that you’ve received is a skill set needed for a leadership position.
Writing your resume is easier to do when you have a strategy of how to do it and how you want your message to come across.
Here are a few things to consider:
💼 𝙁𝙤𝙘𝙪𝙨 𝙤𝙣 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙫𝙖𝙡𝙪𝙚.
What departments have you built? How many people did you manage? What did you do to help the company grow? How did your contribution get them to the next level?
Also: what kind of a leader are you? What is the feedback you receive from your boss AND your team? How your team looks to you says a lot. Don’t be afraid to gather up testimonials from people who worked for you. If you built out an exceptional team, you could say something like:
“Led efforts to identify, secure, engage, and retain top-tier talent and cultivate a diversified entrepreneurial team to deliver optimal results; managed succession planning, attaining a 2% annual turnover rate across 102 employees.”
This bullet shows how this client built, grew, and led a team ending up with very little turnover. He established a culture within the team that made it a place where people wanted to work– and they thrived.
💼 𝙎𝙝𝙤𝙬 𝙤𝙛𝙛 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙢𝙚𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙭.
When you rose through the ranks, you increased revenue, your sales numbers skyrocketed, etc. Don’t be afraid to use numbers if you have them. Certain roles (like sales) usually end up with percentages or dollars. Don’t worry about how much or how little. Percentages and sales show your effort and growth. Like this:
“Developed a model to optimize short stay options across the residential portfolio to support a $200M regional capital project; negotiated the rental of 30 furnished apartments, expanded the model to 56 units, achieved 100% occupancy for 5 years and subsequently transitioned the units to university housing with a 98% annual occupancy rates.”
This bullet is loaded with numbers, proves his success, and also grabs the eye. Numbers and percentages stand out so add them where you can.
💼 𝙃𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙗𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙙.
What are you known for? What do people go to you for? What do you specialize in? This is a very common struggle job seekers struggle with, no matter what level they are at. And often, it comes slowly, through time and experience.
For example, when I started writing resumes I was writing every type of resume I could get my hands on, basically to gather experience. But as time went on, I noticed more and more finance and tech clients started finding me. This built my brand as a finance and tech writer.
Having a consistent brand in these fields is what eventually led to landing the Wall Street Journal contract as their resume writing partner. They heard about me and my team and what we specialized in (at that time) and my brand is what got their attention.
Once you have an idea of what you are known for, that is something you want to lead with on your resume. Make sure it stands out and is front and center. Don’t make hiring managers or recruiters look for it, because they won’t.
💼 𝙋𝙧𝙤𝙛𝙚𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝘿𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙡𝙤𝙥𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙩𝙨!
Are you listing your credentials or professional development? These all count in your skills section. Things like:
– Advanced training courses?
– Did you write anything that became published in your area? White papers? Blog posts?
– What about presentations? Did you speak on your topic? Offer expertise in a podcast or interview?
– Lastly, any awards? If yes, list them.
There are plenty of ways to distract the reader from your lack of formal education and instead get the reader or hiring manager excited about your accomplishments and what you can bring to the role.
While college degrees are required for certain roles, many companies are simply looking for the best candidate for the job.