Career / Job Search

Rock Your Resume, Even Without a Degree or Certs

by Raju Woodward
Rock Your Resume, Even Without a Degree or Certs picture: A
Published on May 15, 2014

Having a college degree or a professional certification is usually a plus. Many companies require job applicants to possess one or the other (or both) to be considered for an interview. Even when not required, having a degree or certification is often preferred by employers.

But as tuition, books, and housing costs continue to soar, attending college isn't financially feasible for everyone. Neither is formal training, which can mean being away from work and family for weeks. This is especially true in developing countries where poverty rates tend to be high and access to education is limited.

Fortunately, IT is one of those industries where you can overcome a lack of a degree or certification — experience counts!

But how do you convey experience on your resume? Or to a job recruiter? We reached out to several CBT Nuggets trainers for advice on how to make yourself stand out, even without a diploma or certificate.

Despite not having a college degree, trainer Shawn Powers has held IT jobs at a university and K-12 school district! One of the reasons Shawn started exploring Linux technology is because it was all he could afford. As a result, Shawn was eager to share two tips for overcoming not having a degree.

"On your resume, say things like, 'Successfully completed CBT Nuggets' CentOS Administration course,'" Shawn said. "This isn't a lie, and the fact that you don't have a cert doesn't make the training less valuable."

Shawn said that the goal of applying to a job is to get an interview, and if you can do that, here's his next piece of advice: Interview well.

Shawn stressed that interviews are where you prove that your knowledge, not certs, should earn you the job.

"Many people with the 'official' certifications can blow it in their interviews," Shawn said, "losing their potential jobs to folks who might not be able to afford the certification, but darn well know the material better."

Here are a few more resume tips from our trainers:

  • List "Areas of Study" to show skills not covered by degrees or certifications. (via Scott Morris)

  • Use the phrase "Expertise with…" to highlight technology you're comfortable working with. (via Ben Finkel)

In addition to emphasizing your knowledge and skills, highlight any real-world experience you might have. Don't have any? One way to get it is to seek out internships – or even better, volunteer opportunities, said trainer Jeremy Cioara.

"If your church, gym, or whatever you do has any computers/IT infrastructure, ask to help maintain it," Jeremy said. "Do it well for some time, and BING, you just got a work experience line item AND a referral for future employers all in one place!"

Jeremy said it's also important to keep in mind that if you intern or volunteer at a larger organization and perform well (even "grunt work"), there's a good chance they won't want to lose you and will do their best to find a position for you.  He knew a mailman who volunteered to reimage classroom computers at an in-person training center Jeremy used to work at.  After 6 months, the company started to pay the man, and let him attend classes free of charge. Today, that volunteer is the company's Cisco instructor!

Last but not least, several trainers stressed the importance of positivity. Chris Ward said to "accentuate the positive in all things" when putting together your resume or interviewing for a position.

"Be personable and positive," said Garth Schulte. "Everyone enjoys working with upbeat people."

What are ways you make yourself stand out if you don't have a degree or certification? Share your experiences and advice!


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