Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer with a graduate degree in Marketing and Communication, and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume writing and interview coaching firm. For more information, call 1-888-9-LADYBUG or visit http://www.ladybug-design.com
Dear Sam: I am 49 years of age, and for the past 7 years, I have been the senior plant manager of a small food processing plant. I was recently laid off and have been conducting an unsuccessful job search. I think that there are two major issues confronting my quest: (1) I am near 50 years of age, and (2) I don't possess that coveted trophy called a "degree." Don't take this the wrong way—I am not criticizing those who do have degrees—but it frustrates me that so many employers require it with positions for which I know I would otherwise qualify.
Am I wasting my time sending a resume when the job posting defines a degree as a requirement? I do have 60 credit hours of college, but I am not sure how to even note that. – Jim
Dear Jim: There are a number of strategies you can employ to minimize the impact of not having a degree when one is required for a particular opportunity.
Never mention it: The worst thing you can do is to explain on your resume or cover letter that you do not hold a degree. There is a possibility that if you present a strong enough image of your past, a hiring manager could qualify you for an interview before even noticing you do not hold a degree. I always tell my clients to avoid mentioning potentially disqualifying factors, when at all possible, and not having a degree when one is required would fall into this category.
Define unique skills and strengths: You possess a unique background and skill set based on your breadth of experience. Now your challenge is to sell that to the hiring manager. Review your background and identify what makes you different from candidates that hold a degree but may have less experience. This is really of key importance, as if you are brought in for an interview and are competing against those who have degrees, you will need to sell yourself by articulating how you are more qualified for the job despite lacking the required credential.
Highlight professional development: When you do not have a degree, it is imperative you highlight your related training and education. Whether these were employer-sponsored or self-initiated training programs, include them on your resume to show continued professional development.
Highlight the education you do have: You have completed two years of college which is probably worth noting. If doing so, your education section would appear as such:
Completed 60 Hours Toward a Bachelor of Science Degree
You could also omit the education section entirely—there is no "rule" saying a candidate has to have an education section on his/her resume—if you feel it does not add value to your candidacy. I often omit the education section if I feel the lack of a degree, or minimal credit hours completed, will detract from the overall picture.
Lastly, in response to your question of whether to apply for these positions when you lack the degree required, I would answer yes every time! Very few candidates will be perfectly qualified; where you lack a degree, another candidate may lack a certain piece of experience. Sell what you have and be confident in your presentation. I would hazard a guess that it is not just your degree holding you back in your search; revamp your resume to ensure it is truly reflecting your value, and I am certain your search will be more successful with or without a degree. All the best!
Dear Sam: What are some of the tips and tricks of professional resume writers? – Sharon
Dear Sharon: When I first started to write resumes and would ask my mentor questions, she would often respond with the comment, "it's not rocket science, it's just common sense." At first I was somewhat frustrated with the lack of "rules" to follow, but then I began to understand what she was really saying: resume writing strategies have to be tailored to each candidate's background, current objective, and key strengths. As a candidate or a beginner writer this is not really what you want to hear. Instead, you want to know the "rules." Well, there are a lack of rules in the resume writing business, and while some feel this is unfortunate as it makes resume writing much more difficult, subjective, and strategic, it stems from the need to craft individualized resumes based on the specifics of each candidate and their current career interests.
So, to answer a question about the "tips and tricks" of a professional resume writer is somewhat futile as each resume is unique, built on an individualized strategy to serve that client and achieve his/her career goals. Having said that, the fundamental efforts of a professional resume writer begin with a clear understanding of what the client wants to do. Only when this is understood can one build an effective strategy to present, prioritize, and relate experiences, education, and strengths to garner the attention of the target audience. Similar to a brochure for a product, each resume should reach out to the target consumer (the hiring manager), telling them why they should "buy" the candidate. To do this well you really do have to use common sense, performing diligence in identifying your career target, understanding the core skills sought for those roles, and incorporating value propositions to "sell" your candidacy.
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Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Do you have a resume or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Sam's resume writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.com or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).