Landing a Great Job Without a College Degree

Many successful mid-career professionals have less than a Bachelor’s Degree or no degree at all. If you’re one of them, how do you stay ahead of your more credentialed peers in the job market?

While having a degree, especially a BA/BS or higher, is a definitive advantage in the job market, the lack of one doesn’t have to spell disaster. But there are two vital things you will need to attend to if you want to ensure that your lean academic credentials don’t hold you back:

Positioning: How you position yourself in a job search always makes a difference to the outcome of your search, but positioning rules when you have one or more significant weaknesses in your background or experience.

  • Do whatever research is necessary to make sure that you have selected the right industry(ies), company(ies), and type/level of job titles to pursue. If your positioning is skewed, your job search results will be, too.
  • Your Career Summary assumes more importance when you have to compensate for less training and education. Make yours stellar by using industry-specific key words in both the body of your summary and in your listing of key competencies.
  • Rely less on applying to open positions and more on marketing yourself to targeted employers. Make exceptional use of your networking contacts to help you get your resumes into the hands of hiring managers.
  • When you read online job postings, consider applying for the position if you meet 75% or more of the hiring employer’s requirements. If you don’t have the exact educational background they are looking for, yet you meet the majority of the rest of their requirements, consider applying anyway. What have you got to lose?
  • Weave quotes from managers, clients, and/or peers into your resumes and letters. You can source them from your performance evaluations, thank you notes/letters/cards/emails, client evaluations/testimonials, and 360-degree assessments, or you can solicit them by asking people for feedback on your performance.

Sell your strengths: Again, this is always good job search and career change advice, but when your academic credentials are leaner than you’d like, relying on your already-proven strengths assumes greater importance.

  • Showcase your achievements in your resume, letters, and interviewing responses. Make darn sure you’ve identified, collected, prepared, and practiced a wealth of success stories to prove your achievement portfolio.
  • Give your success stories more space and attention in your resumes and cover letters. Consider creating a Select Achievement Highlights section in your resume to draw more attention to them.
  • Make sure each job in your work history delineates at least 3-4 solid, measurable achievements.
  • Include more success stories in your cover, follow-up, and thank you letters.
  • Collect, document, and report more of your informal education background – on-the-job training, self-taught skills, and continuing education seminars/classes. Lace your education section with as many of these as possible.
  • Don’t overlook the awards you’ve received, whether from employers, volunteer work, or academic participation. Awards are often vital to report, but they grow in importance when there are one or more lapses in the balance of your professional background.
  • Supplement your resume with a “brag book” or achievements portfolio.

Let’s face it – we all have liabilities to consider when we market ourselves into new jobs. Th key is to recognize them and develop a savvy plan to overcome them.