If you’re a senior-level professional or manager, you’ve probably worked your way up the corporate ranks through demonstrated leadership, dedication, and proficiency.
At some point, you may find yourself wanting to transition upward in your career, and this can be where that nagging doubt sets in: you never finished (or even started) college.
What if this holds you back?
In my work as a professional resume writer, it amazes me how often this question comes up. It seems that ascending professionals divided into two camps: those who fear what might happen during the job search because their career took off too quickly to attend to educational matters, and those without a degree who have ascended the career ladder just the same.
If you aspire to the corner office, moving from the first group into the second requires using some key strategies to pique an employer’s interest. Consider these tips to present a confident image, no matter what your educational status:
> Look at your career contributions with dollar signs.
Employers are always interested in the bottom line. Can you add to it, or control the expenses affecting it? Then, by all means, get this information onto your resume.
Now, extracting this data can be a challenge, but consider the payoff! A powerful leadership resume must practically shout this information in order to prove the strength of your performance.
Ask yourself hard questions about the results of your work, and then put figures to as much of it as possible.
For example, when working with a telecommunications executive lacking a degree, I discussed his leadership role in a reengineering project.
Our analysis yielded sentences such as “Eliminated $34M in rework and achieved 78+% ROI by leading sales and service delivery teams to identify core revisions.” Information such as this helped him quickly demonstrate fitness for a leadership role, while minimizing questions on his educational status.
Results such as these speak for themselves and can cut through any doubt about your abilities-degree or not.
> Add professional training as proof of ongoing development.
You may have attended hours of seminars, leadership training sessions, and other professional development endeavors. Now’s the time to take advantage of your participation.
Keep a complete list as fodder for an educational section on your resume, thus avoiding any temptation to simply skip this information. Adding this data can demonstrate not only a passion for lifelong learning, but also a dedication to learning concepts that benefit employers.
> Mention partial degree programs and other studies.
College coursework, even if you did not finish a degree program, still counts toward secondary education requirements in the eyes of many hiring managers.
In fact, one of the key questions I always ask leadership professionals is whether they attended college without graduating. Most employers understand that life happens, and that not everyone finishes their degree programs.
Use every opportunity to your advantage! Don’t forget to list college studies, including majors and areas of concentration, on your resume.
> Showcase your personal brand and leadership qualities.
Everyone has unique strengths and capabilities to offer their next employer. What are yours? Have you thought about the impact you have on the company’s business?
Ask yourself what pattern emerges when you name personal qualities and traits that allow you to succeed. Believe it or not, these are very relevant to employers, and OFTEN stand out more during a job hunt than degrees do.
Make a list of what you achieve that consistently affects revenue, the corporate reputation, or efficiency, and then describe the steps you’ve taken to attain these results.
Ensure that this information takes center stage on your resume, rather that just listing mundane tasks and other details.
In summary, establishing a link between your expertise and consistent corporate performance is the fastest way to gain attention during your job search.
And consider this: For every employer requiring a degree, there are probably two others that will look at your “on-the-job education” as equivalent (and possibly even stronger) credentials.