So you’ve devoted time, expense, and effort to completing some aspect of formal education. Or maybe you started working on that, but then, inevitably, life happened… I had to take a job to pay the bills, get married, have kids, move, etc. you who can disrupt even the most well-intentioned educational plans.
There are a few rules of thumb out there when listing education on a resume that should be taken into consideration.
1. DO NOT list the year you graduated. Unless you are in an education, government, scientific or highly technical field where having a degree date is essential, please do not convey how old you are by including this information. (HR managers do the math!) Sure, if you’re an adult student who just graduated from college, that’s as new and important to you as it is to someone fresh out of high school who went straight to college. However, resist the temptation to possibly look younger by listing your graduation date!
With the exception of the four fields mentioned above, the hard, cold truth about education is this:
Most employers only really care if you graduated… Yes or no.
They don’t care what your GPA was, how many times you made the dean’s list, what scholarships you earned, and sure, you can list that you graduated with honors or summa cum laude… but often it isn’t. it’s a deciding factor whether to hire you or not – it just becomes distracting with all the scholarships, awards, grades, etc. Keep it clean and simple.
2. A common mistake even recent college graduates make is that they want to list their education FRONT AND CENTER…of course because this is generally the MOST IMPORTANT THING a person has ever done in their life to date. However, most HR managers are really probing the type of experience the person has, not their education. So the best advice is to place education later in the curriculum rather than near the beginning.
3. List all of your education. Some people in this economy are becoming sensitive to feeling “overqualified” or “overeducated.” Think of it this way: Employers are in the right place right now…they can afford to hire workers they couldn’t dream of hiring just five years ago. So they are “hand-picking” the best candidates and if they can find a top-level leader in a field who is willing to come and work for them, they will gladly take them on. Who wouldn’t?
Also, if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, you can indicate: “Schedule courses in: (area of study).
Give yourself credit for your time spent on it, even if the end result is not what you had hoped for. Show initiative and desire to improve your knowledge and skills.
I’ve had a few clients I’ve worked with who had a degree name written on their resume, but it turned out that during our consultation, well, they never REALLY ended up finishing their degree.
This kind of misrepresentation is one of the oldest tricks in the job search book…if that sounds like you, it would be in your best interest to be as forthright as possible about your educational background. HR managers know this trick well!!! Honestly, the EASIEST background check to do in the world is to check whether or not a person graduated from a particular institution. Confusing it or trying to convey a different impression is a fast track to the trash can for your resume.
So this is an “either” or “either” situation.
You either earned your bachelor’s degree OR took syllabus courses in a field.
If you are currently in progress, you can indicate:
Degree Name (please explain): Area of Study (Expected Completion Date: ______)
As for the rest of your education, anything else that doesn’t come from an accredited, formal career college or school falls under the category of “professional development” and can include anything from industry certifications, workshops, training, continuing education units (CEU), conferences, seminars, symposiums and the like.
We recommend calling this specific section “Professional Development,” which communicates to an employer that you’re always actively taking steps to improve and sharpen your skills so you can do your job better.
Not working right now? Do you have resources? Try to keep up with industry trends by registering for a course in your field through a trade association. It’s a great way to keep the “tip in the pool” and stay up to date.
Keeping your mind busy while looking for a job is very important. Sometimes, getting fired is just the opportunity you need to open a new chapter in career improvement… there just wasn’t time to do it before. You never know where this can lead! A recent client of mine spent the money to get certified under another industry credential. One of the certification requirements was to take an exam. When she showed up at the exam site, she found out she was the only unemployed person there, everyone else was there through their company. The amazing thing was that she landed three highly skilled vacancies by talking to people at the exam site…and she was so excited that the exam itself wasn’t the highlight of the day!