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Are Actions Louder Than Degrees? Showcase Your Experience During Your Job Search

By The ZipRecruiter Editors

For the past several decades, a college degree served as the prime factor for determining a job candidate's value during a job search. But the business landscape is changing, and many employers now seek out staff with substantial work experience and relevant skills acquired through on-the-job training and personal development without a degree or official certification.

Keep reading to learn about the growing trend of valuing practical experience over degrees and how to showcase your skills to get your next job.

Experience vs. Degrees

Many job seekers are choosing to forego a college education and are instead completing certification courses in the trades or jumping right into the job market and learning skills on the job. The heavy financial burden of student loans and a questionable return-on-investment for a degree makes going to college more risky and less desirable for a lot of people.

An August 2021 Harvard Business Review article stated that "fewer high-school graduates pursued higher education in 2020 than in previous years." One survey reported that college enrollment dropped by 6.8% in 2020. The decline was more pronounced at high-poverty schools, with only 46% of students moving on to college.

Showcase Your Experience During Your Job Search

If you have several years of job experience without a degree, here are some tips to help you highlight your skills and determination to get to the top of employers’ interview lists.

Create a Chronological Resume

Compose a chronological resume to showcase your valuable work history, leading with your professional achievements. This resume format provides you with the opportunity to let prospective employers see your various roles, increasing in responsibility and skill set.

A chronological resume often focuses on education at the end, so you draw more attention to your experience and less on your formal education. 

Highlight Achievements on Your Resume

Ensure that your resume highlights your specific achievements and the practical experience benefits you can provide the company and the job you're applying for. Offer quantifiable metrics any time you can to provide a clear depiction of the results of your abilities and actions, emphasizing relevant projects, responsibilities, and accomplishments that showcase your expertise. Specifics may include how you increased a website's traffic by 25% through strategic content marketing or the year you beat sales expectations by 30%.

Craft a Skills-Based Summary

Utilize the summary paragraph at the beginning of your resume to highlight your strengths, skills, and capabilities. Focus on the skills most relevant to the position, company, and those in demand in your industry at large. Take advantage of this teaser to grab the hiring manager's attention and encourage them to explore your resume without putting too much attention on your lack of a degree.

Leverage Transferable Skills

You likely have hobbies, passions, and past jobs that you can mine for transferable skills, such as communication, problem-solving, time management, and adaptability. Describe how you have used these skills for your personal growth and how you have used them to assist previous employers.

Include Professional Development Efforts

A four-year degree is not the only kind of program that is considered beneficial in the workforce. There are many certificate programs and other training opportunities to make you a more valuable candidate in the job market.

If you have taken relevant courses, attended training sessions or workshops, or participated in industry events, include them on your resume and give details about what they offered, what you learned, and how you can use it all to serve the company. These efforts reveal your commitment to continuous learning and your devotion to staying at the forefront of your field.

List Internships and Volunteer Work

Not all experience needs to be paid work. Whether you spent time volunteering as a marketing assistant at your local food bank, worked as an intern for a gaming company as a tester, or were an apprentice for an electrician, you gained valuable on-the-job training that you can take to your paid position..

Provide Professional References

List the names and contact information of anyone you have worked for, asking prospective employers to contact them to learn more about your abilities and work ethic. The best references offer insights into the skills you used related to the job you want, so think carefully about who you ask to vouch for your talent.

Get More Tips to Showcase Your Skills and Talent!

If you need more support to land a great job without a degree, our ZipRecruiter team is here to help. We can discuss additional ways to frame your experience to impress employers.

Start your job search and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

The ZipRecruiter Editors

At ZipRecruiter, our mission is to connect employers and job seekers with their next great opportunity. On the ZipRecruiter blog, we use insider experience and data derived from our AI-driven jobs marketplace to provide advice and insights on topics such as the job search process, interviewing, and labor market trends. Start your job search or post a job today and connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn!

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