How to Write an Executive Resume When You Don’t Have a College Degree

EducationJob SearchResume Writing

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.

Case Study

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?
– Certifications?
– 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.

Are You Looking For A Way To Improve Your Job Skills?

Assessments & Education

are you looking for a way to improve your job skills?
Many of us need a little help learning the new skills that are a part of today’s workplace. Fortunately, there’s a way to get some of that education for free — the MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course. The challenge is finding the right course for your circumstances, and not being overwhelmed by the task. Many of the top universities offer MOOCs, but just because it’s good content doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

Do Your Research

Take the time to read reviews and carefully consider what your goals are. For instance, the emphasis on internet marketing in every business means that people who keep up on SEO skills are preferable. Look for some reviews, or guides like the 2015 Guide to Free SEO Training Courses Online on Search Engine Watch. The goal is to select one skill to develop in your spare time and deciding which skill you need to prioritize based on your own career goals.

Do Your Homework

Once you have decided to take something like a MOOC, keep at it. Most of the difficulty in online classes is keeping at it. This is why it’s usually good to do one at a time and, if you can talk a friend into taking it with you, you have a study partner and some accountability. You are working on educating yourself for your own satisfaction for the most part, but that is impressive because it shows you are looking for life-long learning opportunities.
People who demonstrate a desire to keep learning, taking the initiative to research the best options for their industry, and keeping at it by getting through something like a massive open online course are impressive. They make an impression on their colleagues because they set a good example. They make an impression on their employer because they demonstrate an ability to stay current with their skill set. And they make an impression in their self-confidence because they are increasing their knowledge and understanding.
If you decide to explore the potential of the MOOC, do your research and select the right one — then do your homework and get it done.

Written In Stone? Can Job Posting Requirements be Flexible?

Career & WorkplaceInterviewingJob SearchProfessional Resumes

Requirements In Job Postings
Searching for a job can be a daunting task. You scan through dozens of job postings without any of them fitting your idea of the job you want.  But then there will be times that you will find it – a posting that describes a job that is everything you’ve been looking for.
The problem?  You don’t have all of the qualifications required in the job description.  You don’t have any of the education, work experience, or skill requirements specifically listed in the posting. What do you do? Do you give up now and keep searching? Or do you pursue the job and see what happens? It is a different decision for every person and every job. Not all requirements are written in stone, and employers may wave some requirements, if they think you have other attributes that would make you an ideal candidate for the position. Here are a few things to consider before making a decision whether or not to apply for a job you’re not completely qualified for.

  • Ask yourself some tough questions: Before pursuing a job you need to ask yourself if you feel you are really qualified for even some of the position requirements. Could you do well at this job even without having all the requirements mandated in the posting? If the answer is yes then proceed with the application/resume submission process.
  • Do you have different skills, education, or experience: If you have skills, education, or experience that differ from the requirements in the posting but would apply to the job, you may be able to get the job anyway. For example: The requirements say you need at least a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management, but you have a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting with a minor in Psychology. You earned a degree, and have learned other skills during your education that are marketable and could still get you the job.
  • If you don’t have any of the above: The fact of the matter is, if you don’t have something to give the company in exchange for what they have posted, then you shouldn’t pursue the job. The company put those requirements down for a reason, so if you want to change those requirements, then you need to give them something worthwhile in return.

While it will be different for every job, if you have something to give a potential employer, for the most part, you may be able to get around specific job requirements and land the job.

What Is The Difference Between Executive and Regular Resumes?

Executive ResumesInterviewingJob SearchProfessional ResumesResume KeywordsSalary

Fancy Resume
Do you know when it’s time to move from a regular resume to an executive resume? There are a few subtle differences but will speak volumes when presented for certain types of positions.
Usually at the top of a regular resume is an objective statement. This is where a person will tell in paragraph form what they are looking for in a job and any expectations they may have. An executive resume will have an opening paragraph that will highlight their strongest points, often in bullet points and what that candidate can do for a company.
Executive resumes will typically be at least 2 pages but no more than 4. This is because they may have detailed educations, publications they have written or any awards they received. It is all relevant on an executive resume.
An executive resume will also have bolded words, highlighted or underlined sections so as to showcase their skills, achievement or awards. Additionally, the wording and structure will be much more sophisticated than regular resumes.
Once you have reached a certain level of experience, education, awards or achievements in your career which will now enable you to seek for more executive type jobs is the time to start using an executive resume.
It won’t do any good to present a regular resume when the position calls for a more professional applicant. So, don’t forget to update your regular resume to an executive resume.

College Degree – Is it Helping You?

Assessments & EducationCareer & Workplace

College University
Since the job economy is dismal at best, there are a large number of people who are out of work and have been out of work for a long time. For many employed workers, they are working in a field totally unrelated to their college degree. So, is it helping?
Statistics show that those with a degree earn more money than those with only a high school diploma (90% compared to 64%). They may not be making as much as they had hoped, or in a field they trained for. But a college degree is still important.
Hopefully, the times that we live in currently will not last forever and the job economy will get better. When that happens, there will be more job opportunities that may fit your degree better.
Even those who attend a technical college and train in a specialized degree do better, on average. It may seem as if going to college is a waste of time currently, but it simply is not. You have to invest in yourself and hope for a better future.
If you don’t, you will be most likely working for a lot less money than you are really worth. No one wants that. And, everyone wants to be able to take care of themselves and making more money is where it’s at.
The year 2012 is full of promise and now just may be the time that you seriously consider getting a degree. It does not matter how old you are, there is never a better time than now to better your life.

College Education – Is it Worth it in Today's Economic Climate?

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With many college graduates unable to find full time employment and a new crop ready to come up, many of them are starting to wonder where they will find a job. It wasn’t long ago that a college degree all but guaranteed you a stable career and higher earning potential. Now, many are not seeing the same returns they once did. So is a college degree worth it in today’s economic terms?
How do you quantify who earns more?
One area to look at is recent graduates from the past 5 years when the Great Recession began. The data shows that of those people who graduated college – nearly 90% were employed – when compared to people who did not graduate college who were employed at 64%. These figures do not show whether these graduates were employed in a field related to their degree or not. But, another telling fact is that college graduates are earning almost double that of people without college degrees. This advantage will likely stick with them throughout their working careers.
Another Option
Another way that we assess the value of receiving a college degree is to compare the rate of return from investing in a college degree versus using the same amount of money for investment opportunities. College degrees are obviously expensive. Tuition, books and housing all add up to well over $100,000 for a four year degree. This is only average as some colleges cost considerable more.
So let’s say you have a recent high school graduate who has $100,000 to invest in their future. Is college the right option or would you use that money for something else? Would investments such as stocks and bonds outweigh the lifetime earnings that a college degree would bring?
The correct answer is, technically speaking, investing in a college degree. A college degree has a rate of return of 15% a year for $100,000 invested. Compare this with the average returns on the stock market  at 6.5%, along with the rate of corporate bonds at 3% and other stable investments and you’re not even close.
Higher Rates of Return
A better rate of return translates into higher lifetime earnings as well. Over their lifetime, the average diploma holder will earn over $550,000 more than the average person with a high school diploma. So the incentive to receive a college education is high.
Some high school students would do well to invest in technical or trade schools that offer specialized skills which will keep them employed throughout any recession. There are opportunities out there for everyone and remember – many people who never graduated college have become successful in different fields. Think of the Bill Gates’, the Paul Allen’s and the Larry Ellison’s of the world. Not having a college degree never stopped them and it should not deter anyone from achieving their dreams.

Men on Paternity Leave?

BlogCareer & WorkplaceFamily

When the U.S, government passed laws in 2006 enacting the new parent-rights portions of the Work and Families Act, they extended pay and leave for new parents, including men on paternity leave. Working dads have been eligible for up to two weeks of paid leave since 2003, but the new measures extend these benefits. Statutory Maternity Pay, Maternity Allowance and Statutory Adoption Pay have been extended from 39 weeks to 52, with working fathers entitled to take an extra 26 weeks off of work to care for their child, if the mom has returned to work and has not used all of her eligible maternity leave.
These employer-supplied benefits are of course only available if your employer is a regular tax and benefits-paying entity. Those who are independent contractors or employed on a part-time basis may not be eligible for these benefits. Eligibility is also determined by requirements such as the father must be the biological father of the baby or married to the mother, and expected to share in responsibilities related to rearing the child.
Timing is also important for eligibility and the father is expected to work for the same employer from the time of conception until the time of birth, with leave scheduled starting only when the baby is due, and arrives. Taking time off early might negate your eligibility, so be sure to carefully look over the rules and guidelines. You need to notify your employer of your intentions to take leave by the 15th week before the estimated due date. You can take the leave any time after the birth; it does not have to immediately follow the day the baby is born.
Men on paternity leave is becoming a more common phenomenon than ever before, with the paternity leave being extended to include unpaid time off, after the eligible time period for benefits expires. With the previous disparity in wages that was so clearly sex-defined being narrowed, more women than ever are bringing home as much or more money than their partners. This can potentially free up the formerly “conventional” situation where the mom stays home and raises the kids while dad works outside the home, to a more non-traditional family set-up, where dad stays home and mom goes to work.
It has raised a whole new crop of social issues as well, related to conventional gender roles in our society, and how best to raise a child with the new option of dad staying home. Since more and more people are finding it financially and socially viable to have the father be the primary care-giver and mom be the bread winner, whole social networks are now available to dads who need peers with similar experiences, and moms who have to deal with the stress of being away from their children. Conventional family settings have of course always been that mom stays and dad works, and the new dynamic inherent with choosing a different path brings a new set of challenges to both parents and children.

Trends Job Seekers Should Look for in 2011 (trends/tools/hiring practices)

Career CollectiveJob Search

**I am a member of the Career Collective, a group of resume writers and career coaches.  Each month, all members discuss a certain topic.  This month, we are talking about trends for 2011. Please follow our tweets on Twitter #careercollective.  You can also view the other member’s interesting posts at the end of the article.

It may not seem like it but the recession seems to be tailing off. More people are willing to spend money, so lending has returned to a degree. But that doesn’t mean anything if you’re one of the ones without a job. 2011 is shaping up to be a great year for job seekers, especially if you are filling a critical need job. Sure there is high unemployment still but that does not mean that you cannot make something happen in the New Year. Having a positive attitude and staying abreast of the trends will put you in the running to find that job you want.
But, what are some of the trends for job seekers in 2011? There are a few different things to pay attention to, that are just over the horizon.
The Outlook:
Job growth is expected to be faster than average, thanks to growing demand for service sector jobs, the looming retirement of aging baby boomers, and broad efforts to create job growth. The volume of jobs is expected to increase throughout 2011, and rates are expected to continue through 2018, which are some of the fastest occupational growth rates being projected by the Labor Department.
Lending is expected to follow along current levels with some increase in lending to well-qualified applicants. But, lending can be a good thing in this economy, with more money changing hands there are more opportunities for job growth. Keep an eye out to see how the market affects your potential career field choice.
Upward Mobility:
If you want you can choose to go for additional schooling. Some jobs offer postgraduate programs for specialties in certain fields. It helps to be able to showcase strong educational history on your resume. As more people enter the workforce, employers can have the cream of the crop, so it creates incentives for potential employees to build their resume. Postgraduate work is a great thing to showcase on a resume and it can help set you apart from other potential job seekers.
Hiring Tools:
Employers are worried about salaries and specifically new salaries. In 2011 the trend is to develop talent from within, instead of spending the time to evaluate and train an outside employee. More employers are looking to promote from within. This is obviously not something that job seekers want to hear in 2011, but just focus on showcasing your skills and building your resume, and you will be on to your future job.
Job Types:
Expect a lot of graveyard shifts, weekend work and holiday work. Employers know that they have their employees in a tight spot and they are going to work their employees into the ground. Do not expect much help in the way of increased pay for this type of work. Profits are high for the top, not for the people doing the actual work.
Read below for more tidbits and wisdom from some of our industry’s top career professionals:

Social Media Recruiting to Grow Further in 2011, @debrawheatman
Another Year, Another Job Search Begins, @GayleHoward
In 2011, Increase Your Prospects With Better Differentiation, @WalterAkana
4 Lessons Learned From Job Search in 2010, @Careersherpa
Your Career Action Plan for the New Year, @KatCareerGal
Trends Job Seekers Should Look For in 2011, @erinkennedycprw
Things Every Job Seeker Should be Thinking About in 2011, @expatcoachmegan
Let your presence be known or send out a red flag, @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes
How to find a job in 2011: Pay attention to emotional intelligence, @Keppie_Careers
2011 Employment Trends Supercharged with Twitter, @KCCareerCoach
3 Traits for Facing Weather, Employment and Chronic Illness, @WorkWithIllness
Everything old is new again @DawnBugni
Career Trend 2011: Accountability + Possibility = Sustainability, @ValueIntoWords
Career Tools to Check Out in 2011, @barbarasafani
What Was in 2010, What To Expect in 2011, @chandlee
The Future of Job Search: 3 Predictions and 2 Wishes, @JobHuntOrg