I was working with a person recently who was updating his résumé for an upcoming job change. As it turns out, he’s very much a self-taught learner, preferring hands-on experiences to classroom settings. Despite never completing a university degree, he’s had a successful IT career for over 35 years.
When you look at the “education” section of his résumé, though, you see very little: Some years in university, and that’s about it. The problem is that he hasn’t been tracking all this great investment he’s been making in professional improvement.
The whole point of that “education” section is:
- To provide evidence that have the minimum requirements to be in the job or field
- To demonstrate that you’ve kept up with important changes, especially in technology-related aspects
- To give the impression that you’re able to learn quickly
So what do you do when your educational background is looking weak or dated?
- Track not only your formal schooling, but also individual classes that you’ve taken over the years. This may be tough to do the first time, but if you update the list on a yearly basis (like when you’re having a performance evaluation), it won’t be hard to maintain.
- Add to that any certifications you’ve achieved in processes, methods and technologies.
- If you’ve learned important things on certain projects or assignments, describe how that’s happened.
My client has a wide range of technologies that he’s learned over the years, as it’s been central to his success. So his challenge was to create a statement saying, “I’m a self-motivated learner, quickly picking up new processes and technologies when relevant to the job. In many case I’ve created them as well, as an improvement for the organization.” It’s absolutely true, and an important part of why someone would hire him.
Since he’s in a technology related field, it was important to support this by listing his relevant technical proficiencies, starting first with the ones which are most relevant in today’s market. Others are listed basically in reverse chronological order. At his age, it was important to drop off (or group together) programming languages and standards which would give the impression that he’s old and stuck in the past.
Ideally, as you get older the potential content for your résumé or CV will be much longer than you’ll ever use for any single job application. It’s great comfort to be able to pick just the most compelling information, and gloss over other areas which don’t reinforce the message you’re trying to send.