No Degree? 7 Ways to Sell Your Experience

CareerBuilder.com writer

Becky Blanton, 53, has worked for five major media companies, been an assistant advertising director for a Fortune 500 company, and owned her own newspaper. She's also currently writing a book called "Staying Hungry: The Official Guide for Never Settling for What Life Puts on Your Plate," about grit, determination and perseverance.

With such an impressive career backdrop, you might be thinking Blanton's educational background is equally as impressive.

Though she has some college education under her belt, Blanton doesn't have her college degree. She does everything she can to gain experience by attending conferences, workshops, seminars, job training classes and shadowing friends at work.

Blanton is not alone in lacking a college degree. In 2007, 46.6 percent of the labor force had less than a high school degree and 69.9 percent had no college degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While getting an education is certainly important, many people make the argument that it's not the degree that's important; it's what you learn and how you apply it.

"There are many myths about what a degree can do for you," says John Murphy, author of "Success Without a College Degree." "Too many college grads depend on the promise that their degree is a 'golden ticket.' Employers know that vague degrees, such as English literature, humanities, sociology and liberal arts have little to do with the practical world. The things that get jobs have more to do with attitude, first impressions and experience than a diploma."

Blanton agrees that a diploma is not the most important thing to an employer. She feels that not having her degree has never been a disadvantage.

"I have only been turned down from one job because of a lack of a degree and that was teaching journalism at a college," Blanton says. "Experience, not education levels, is what employers are after. They want to know you can do the job. I had to work a little harder, learn a little more and go the extra mile to show employers I could do the job. I learned the people skills, attitude and job skills to succeed and didn't rest on my 'I have a degree laurels' that so many people do."

If you're non-degreed and looking for ways to land a job in spite of it, here are some tips on how you can sell your experience, regardless of your education.


1. Be a Problem Solver

"Millions [of people] graduate with vague degrees that only attest to one's ability to read books and take tests, but not necessarily solve problems," Murphy says. "Industry experience conveys that you can solve problems for an employer right away or with little learning curve. Examine your experience and spell out how you helped solve problems, any problems. Competitors with degrees won't be able to compare."


2. Tell Your "Rocky" Story

"Not having an impressive academic pedigree -- or any degree at all -- can be a plus if you've found a way to succeed to this point without one," says Sean O'Neil, principal of One to One Leadership, a sales and management training and recruitment company. "The more you can demonstrate a history of success relative to more pedigreed peers the better. You can paint yourself as a self-made professional, as compared with the silver-spoon Ivy Leaguer who had all the odds in their favor."


3. Be Open to Education

"Many companies have favorable back-to-school plans for their employees. If you're speaking with a prospective employer that places a large emphasis on academics, you might want to indicate a desire to take advantage of their plan," O'Neil says. "Demonstrating a desire to make up any gaps in your résumé while on the job might just tip the scales in your favor."


4. Don't Make it a Big Deal

"Don't make it such a big deal and it just might not be," says Bill Gaffney of the Amaxa Group, a recruiting and coaching company. "If it is an impediment to you then you are going to reflect that when you talk with the company. There are really very few companies where the degree will stop [someone] from hiring a person if they are the best out there."


5. Focus on Achievements Over Education

"If you don't have a degree, it's very important for you to shine in every other aspect of your résumé," says Cathy Severson, career counselor and owner of Retirement Life Matters. "Don't settle for a list of tasks, but really demonstrate how you can do the job better than anyone else can. The best way is to do this is by providing concrete evidence of how you have excelled at similar tasks in the past through accomplishments."


6. Prepare Your Success Stories

"For the interview, prepare several stories of success that showcase how you have accomplished tasks similar to others who possess a degree," says Barbara Safani of Career Solvers. If you are a sales professional, for example, focus on how you exceeded your sales targets and done as well as or better than your colleagues. If you are an accountant, prove how you have uncovered errors and recouped money for the company -- despite the fact that you didn't formally study accounting. If you are a high school graduate competing against a recent college graduate, talk about the experience you have garnered in part-time or summer jobs or full-time jobs you had while others your age were at college, she says.


7. Create a Combination Résumé

"The most important task is to market your key skills and accomplishments to the employer by creating a résumé that focuses on your contributions to your previous employers AND your experience that is most relevant to the position for which you are applying," says Winifred Winston, certified professional résumé writer. "By creating a combination résumé that lists your relevant skills and experience first, you are sure to capture the hiring manager's attention. You initially want the employer to be able to fold your document in half and just by reading the top portion they know you are someone they should contact to schedule an interview. Does that top portion list education? Not necessarily."


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144 Comments

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Cornel

WHATTT "RECESSION"????



There is a "Famous" Quote that goes something like this, "The Major
Key To Your Better "Financial" Future Is YOU!"

If you are Open-Minded, a BIG Thinker and ready to get your "own"
(MBA)Massive-Bank-Account, CHECK THIS OUT!!!

What Do You Have To LOSE?>http://www.casshnurface.com

April 19 2009 at 1:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
apoczen211

My girlfriend has a law degree and a masters in business management, about 7 months ago she was laid off from her firm she worked at for a year and was posting resumes everyday all day for over 2 months, after a few similar emails that stated she was over qualified for the jobs shes inquiring about she realized that sometimes having multiple prestiges degrees isnt a good thing. A friend of mine that dropped out and got a GED is making $55grand annually working at a meat plant, though it took him 8 years to get there he is making $5grand less than my girlfriend with way less headache and hours.

April 08 2009 at 8:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JC

I am 28 and being "young" makes no difference for me atleast in my home state finding employment. I have put in 200 applications in a little over a month. (I have been without work for a year) I have put in about 50 applications for a month, taken a break for a month and repeated, and now I am non-stop searching for employment. Every where I go I talk to employees/managers whoever I can strike up a conversation with about a job. They all seem to think I have the personality to get a job without a problem. Unfortunately, I have heard from about 6 company's saying that I do not meet the requirements. (2years of college, and a Barber License - as well as a Forklift Certification). I use employment agencys, online job sites, and personally go from place to place (applying for EVERY job no matter what pay) with no luck. I remember in the early 1990's I was able to get two jobs in one day without a resume, college, or even trying. Currently I feel hopeless, but I try each day to get up and have a positive attitude to overcome the circumstances. Thankfully my wife works, but I hate to have to tell her day after day that I can not find work (not even in my profession). I tell possible employers that I will work any day, any time and can start immediately. (Even working all holidays) If the rest of American's are having this much trouble, we are in sad shape. The only thing I can think of is to try to get another certification that has a high rate of hire chance. What can we do?

March 29 2009 at 8:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JC's comment
chris

JC, put your trust in God. You have much to offer and you are capable of doing great things. As you continue to search you are gaining valuble knowlegde that can help you find other ways to present yourself to potentail employeers. You now know what not to do. You are a critical thinker. May be you should start thinking of untradional ways to present your experience and talent.

April 02 2009 at 2:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
AG

I take offense to the line that "Employers know that vague degrees, such as English literature, humanities, sociology and liberal arts have little to do with the practical world." It is ignorant to discount these areas of study--they produce some of the most competent and versatile students/individuals, with the most realistic sense of their abilities and how to apply them to the working world. If anything, employers SHOULD look to hire people from such well-rounded, adaptable backgrounds. Just because someone doesn't strive for the bottom line, doesn't mean they're worthless; value should be measured in morals and ethics, something a lot of our highly regarded professionals lack (as well as compassion). Humanitarians didn't sell people mortgages they couldn't afford. And most "employers" get more credit than they deserve; if they don't have enough insight to determine how your skills (with or without a degree, no matter what field) could be their assets, you probably wouldn't want to work for them anyway.

March 29 2009 at 3:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Steve Harris

A degree simply proves to an employer that you can be trained. I worked for a large developement corp for 11 years 23 to 34. I was laid of, divorced and given custody of my two kids. The best job offer I could get was half of what I was making. My answer was to start my own business.
Hard ! Hard ! Hard ! We barely survived for the first few years. That was 18 years ago. You can make it we did .

March 27 2009 at 6:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tim

Wayne,
If you wrote the reply, then you have enough skills to learn excel.
Don't be leary of jumping in and getting started at home. You can
purchase a student edition relativaly cheap and there are usually
local programs, schools, community centers, literacy programs, etc
that provide free lessons.
If you practice on your own, just find copies of excel documents
online to practice and work with. Make a copy by renaming the
document and go and have fun. If you mess it up, just go back to the
original and start again. Your not going to break the computer with
the excel program. Good Luck! Tim

March 26 2009 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David King

WDB your are 100% right GREED root to evil and Goverment still feed the GREED with out Helping the americans for which it stands. STOP companies from leaving OR fee major tariffes for those that do. AND quit bailing out companies. Will I get a bail out when I go Bankrupt...NO.
I can not even get public asstance for my house hold of six!!

March 26 2009 at 2:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CJBJ

Yes, it is true that you can land a job with no degree, but only if it not based on math, science or something that requires real technical expertise. Don't be fooled into thinking that a can-do attitude and mountians of experience will land you many of these type of jobs. The truth is a good amount of experience, education and a degree in a relevant field will provide you with be opportunities than without. Imagine if you will some deeply misguided person thinking that his years of experience as a community service agent will get him in the door as a NASA research scientist.

A lot of what has been mentioned in this article is true of jobs that are less technical and based more on personality and common sense. You don't need an MBA example to work as an executive because in reality it does not take a lot of math, science, and overwhelming technical know how to tell someone ELSE what to do.

Many of our countries greatest achievements that propelled us the the forefront in many areas came from very educated men and women. It is extremely hard to believe for example that someone with no degree but experience an assistant chief and a good attitude could discover the cure for AIDs and human immortality.

So in closing can you get a job with no degree? Yes, in areas like business administration, sociqal work, fitness, consultation, food service and etc. These are more based on your personality, attitude, drive and common sense decision making skills than say actual knowing how to design a propulsion system based on nuclear power. Otherwise be prepared to bring together experience, education and a degree to prove you can do the job. A degree in Aeronautical engineering is not just a peice of paper. A degree in sports medicine ( a massuese) is just that a peice of paper. Don't believe, take a look at global competition and you'll see what I mean.

March 26 2009 at 2:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David King

What many people fail to notice is that with all the lay-offs involving the econimical time these day is even walmarts are not hiring. I have turned in apps to walmarts, krogers and such. However I can not afford to drive 150 milesfor the few opens to the min. wage paying jobs. Hell even the temps Service are having a hard time with job placement. I do hold my head up high and sell myself for general labor working a few days a week while doing so. I also have many skills with out an education to go with them. It these skill that have allowed me to pay my bills and contue with food on the table and utilites paids even if there on the verge of being turned off.
Too bad though, the people that temp my work are now having their own problems. This makes basic needs very difficult to provide now. As long as the economy is in the bad shape that is in more and more people will suffer. Mean while Big Wigs are asking for bail out money to save their businesses and handing out fat check to CEOs. Remember bail out cost EACH american over $3000 in taxes and keeps going up each month!!! That just not right.

March 26 2009 at 2:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CJBJ

Yes, it is true that you can land a job with no degree, but only if it not based on math, science or something that requires real technical expertise. Don't be fooled into thinking that a can-do attitude and mountians of experience will land you many of these type of jobs. The truth is a good amount of experience, education and a degree in a relevant field will provide you with be opportunities than without. Imagine if you will some deeply misguided person thinking that his years of experience as a community service agent will get him in the door as a NASA research scientist.

A lot of what has been mentioned in this article is true of jobs that are less technical and based more on personality and common sense. You don't need an MBA example to work as an executive because in reality it does not take a lot of math, science, and overwhelming technical know how to tell someone ELSE what to do.

Many of our countries greatest achievements that propelled us the the forefront in many areas came from very educated men and women. It is extremely hard to believe for example that someone with no degree but experience an assistant chief and a good attitude could discover the cure for AIDs and human immortality.

So in closing can you get a job with no degree? Yes, in areas like business administration, sociqal work, fitness, consultation, food service and etc. These are more based on your personality, attitude, drive and common sense decision making skills than say actual knowing how to design a propulsion system based on nuclear power. Otherwise be prepared to bring together experience, education and a degree to prove you can do the job. A degree in Aeronautical engineering is not just a peice of paper. A degree in sports medicine ( a massuese) is just that a peice of paper. Don't believe, take a look at global competition and you'll see what I mean.

March 26 2009 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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