Lack of Degree? So What?
By Stephanie Clark.
Since 2007, when I launched myself as a résumé writer, I have had a broad spectrum of clients. From entry level to senior executive, from every continent (except Antarctica, of course!), employed and unemployed.
In this last category, several have landed at my virtual doorstep after being reorganized out by an employer for whom they had worked for most of their careers, sometimes as long as 25 years.
After more than two decades with one employer, it’s almost predictable that these job seekers had worked their way up the ladder, often after beginning in truly junior and entry-level positions. Working many hours and devoting remaining hours to raising families meant that pursuing professional development, i.e. substantiating their knowledge or titles with formal credentials, fell off their “to-do” lists.
In each case, I have helped this sector of client land great opportunities. They leave my service with restored confidence. They are equipped with strong job search self-marketing documents. They are empowered with answers to potentially ego-deflating interview questions. This is what we do as career coaches, résumé writers, interview strategists. It’s mind-blowing if you think about it! Our processes can transition such a job seeker from victim with no prospects to that of job search “lottery winner,” being set free to rediscover career joy! Amazing.
Here are a few tips on the “how-to” aspects of this process.
Find Nuggets of Gold
As a professional, it’s up to each of us to unearth career gold nuggets, those wonderful accomplishments that each person has. Some are humble, others quite extraordinary, but each person has several – at the least – in his or her career. Often these are hidden under sentiments such as “I just do my job” or lack of appreciation for their own talents, expressed as “I don’t know.”
Grasping each position’s expected gains is critical to unearthing these; be sure you understand the position’s mandate. Gold is often hidden in context; be sure to ask questions that unearth the client’s story. Context reveals the issues, history, market situations, departmental upheavals, aka “opportunities,” which then stimulate questions that unearth nuggets of gold, aka “problem-solving.”
Challenge yourself to use verbs to your client’s benefit. Ditch the low-energy verbs, such as provided or assisted, for more specific and energetic verbs such as introduced, augmented, selected, and so on. Remember that what you are composing is a marketing piece, not a dry, historical document. Marketing isn’t afraid to be different while still speaking to the buyer’s motivators. There is nothing wrong with bullets that uniquely express a client’s value proposition. Consider the following:
- Touched hearts as a dedicated customer service manager; realized a 50% increase in team engagement and 23% reduction in customer complaints following a poor 10-year history.
- Sacrificed short-term budget goals for long-term improvements by hiring a knowledgeable consultant in an effort to restore profitability following 7-years of decline; achieved 1st-year profit margin of 27% with projected 2nd-year margin of additional 12%.
These bullets also incorporate context. The bullets shine a light on the fact that it’s words and context that will distinguish this client, not a list of historical duties and keywords.
Be Truthful yet Strategic
Interview questions can paralyze; however, it’s empowering to know that it’s completely possible to be truthful while also being strategic. Asked why did you leave the last employment, a client could respond:
“With a change in senior leadership and a CEO with a new vision for organizational structure and efficiency, a number of senior staff were reorganized out. It was a surprise, but after some consideration, I embraced this change. Taking stock of my contributions has been empowering. While with ABC Tech I led several critical initiatives, about one every two or three years, all major projects that kept us competitive and moving into a secure future. It’s clear to me that I have a singular and robust skill set to share with my next great opportunity.”
Demonstrate Realism vs Pie-in-the-Sky
I am ever the realist and often suggest adding a university-level leadership certificate or a diploma or other relevant credential. The suggestion might be a response to what I see in the marketplace or to a serious lack of confidence in the client, who struggles even after seeing his or her new résumé. One can never go wrong with education and professional development is seen as a key strength, as per recruiters and employers.
Education is not a deal-breaker in many cases. Deep knowledge born of years of highly relevant, fully integrated experience can equal up-to-date educational credentials. On-the-job experience certainly outperforms a newbie’s lack of relevant experience – but ONLY if substantiated with defined contributions, accomplishments that improved performance, productivity, profits, and reputation.
Lack of educational credentials is not uncommon among job seekers, as a Google search reveals. This article from Monster.com supports the premise that the lack of a degree does not necessarily lead to job search disaster.
What has your experience been? Let us know in the comments.
Digital image by Danielle Walls on Neat and Tangled.