Career Calling

February 16, 2013

Where to Put Education on Your Resume

Internet experts will frequently say that education should always be positioned at the beginning or end of a resume.  Beware of such one-size-fits-all answers.  Education is a very important selling point, but sometimes it is not the most important selling point.  If a client’s work experience is more important, I put that element before education.  In the case of new graduates or clients who have completed graduate degrees that are important to career change or promotion, I put education first.

If I put education first, it’s not enough to simply list a school, degree, and graduation date.  What does the employer want to see?  Some people list classes and extracurricular activities.  I think this strategy is a mistake because it presents a job seeker as a student, not as someone who is ready to work.  My strategy is to list relevant skills or projects that show the client performing activities that are related to what she would be doing on the job.  I want to underscore whatever the client is taking away from school that would bring value to the employer.

Where you position education on a resume is like all other aspects of resume writing: a matter of strategy.  For me, the starting point is to put a job seeker’s best selling point early in the document.  Sometimes that means education is up front; sometimes it’s in the back.  Always start with what the employer wants to see.

February 8, 2013

The Experience Myth

I was recently working with two experienced professionals who were making a career change based on completing a master’s degree.  In both cases, my clients felt that they were limited by a lack of experience.  I frequently hear a similar complaint from new college grads.  In one sense this concern is legitimate.  Employers often prefer to hire people who have worked in a given industry or job function.  However,  that type of candidate is not always available, which is how doors open for career changers and new graduates.

If a job seeker doesn’t have experience, what can she offer employers?  She has two important qualities to sell:  knowledge and hands-on skills.  Almost every kind of academic program teaches skills that employers need.  Rather than fill a resume with classes or irrelevant extracurricular activities, present the skills that the employer is looking for.  If you know how to do something, it doesn’t matter that you don’t have experience at a workplace.  Highlight work done in projects or class activities.  Another key point that grads often ignore is the knowledge that they bring to an employer.  New grads often bring the latest knowledge and ideas.  That’s a valuable asset, and one that should be promoted in resumes and job interviews.  As Daniel Pink writes in his fine career guide, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need:  “Think strengths, not weaknesses.”

May 6, 2010

Listing Education on Your Resume

Some people list all education on their resume, covering high school to graduate school.  As in all aspects of resume writing, go back to the first question:  What does the employer want to know?  Present only education that is relevant to the job you are seeking.

For many jobs, this means an undergraduate degree.  If you obtained a relevant graduate degree (such as an M.B.A.), list that degree before your undergraduate degree.  If you went to school, but did not receive a degree, you can note the major you pursued or how long you were in school (i.e., completed three years toward a B.S. in Physics).  List a high school degree only if you have not studied in college or if you went to a high school that might impress prospective employers.

Should you list classes completed, G.P.A., or honors?  I do not recommend including these elements because they tell an employer you are a student.  However, for new graduates, I recommend listing knowledge and skills that they will be using on the job.  New graduates need to present themselves as someone who will be ready to make an immediate contribution to their new company.

Professional training should be listed separate from education.  Again, keep it relevant and concise.  Some clients have want to listed 15-20 different types of training.  The problem with this approach is that the employer is not impressed by such a list.  Instead, if the job seeker listed the most relevant 3-5 types of training, she would have a stronger impact. 

Don’t be intimidated by employers who ask for a degree.  They often say “degree preferred” or “degree or relevant experience.”  The word preferred means that they will give an advantage to an employee with that type of degree.  But, if you can offer similar experience and achievements, employers will often consider you as a qualified candidate.

Write your resume so education speaks to what the employer needs.  Keep your presentation relevant, which means listing only education and training that the employer will care about.

Follow this line to read a sample of a new graduate resume.

student undergrad

Follow this link to see a resume for a new M.B.A.

MBA Sample