4 Tips To Shine As A Job Seeker Without A College Degree


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Jill was six months into the job search and getting discouraged. Being a job seeker was beginning to feel like a full-time job.  

She really wanted to land a position as an Executive Assistant with a top corporation in Chicago. She had been working as a Administrative Assistant at a non-profit organization for three years, and was hoping to make the leap into a more advanced role. Every position she applied to required a minimum two years of college education, however.

Jill had drafted a resume using the templates on Microsoft Word. She was sure she did well by including skills like hard-working and deadline-oriented. Jill wasn’t getting called for interviews even though she had the minimum experience in lieu of education.

Then, Jill’s friend Sandra suggested she revamp her resume. Sandra encouraged Jill to condense her text, include interesting verbs, and use a trendy layout. Jill cautiously obliged, but was finally getting calls about her resume within a few weeks.

Employers were excited to talk with Jill because she was able to show her exceptional experience assisting top management of a non-profit. In spite of the fact that she lacked a degree, some employers even talked to Jill about other positions in their companies because she had so much relevant transferable experience. Jill didn’t realize her qualifications until she started to unveil her talents from the lackluster verbiage of her standard resume.

Don’t miss great opportunities because you don’t meet all of the qualifications. Instead, use these tips to shine as a job seeker without a college degree:

Cater To Your Personality

Finding the right role as a job seeker without a college degree can be challenging, especially with the influx of graduates entering the workforce. Determining where your skills fit best will rely heavily on your personality and past experiences.

Knowing how your personality impacts different job opportunities is a great asset as a job seeker. Decide the positive and negative aspects of your personality. Analyze how those impact what you want out of a position. Finally, research jobs that fit that criteria.

New graduates don’t always know what they want out of a job. Understanding how your greatest asset impacts your career will help you stand out against the competition.

Choose a position that complements your personality. For example, if you are outgoing and love to talk to people, you might want to consider working in a dynamic field like sales. Your vibrant personality will outshine the competition since that is a unique trait that can’t be taught.

Create A Custom Resume

Hiring managers will see your resume long before they ever meet you. It is very important to avoid writing a boring and flat resume. The best way to show off your skills as a candidate is to create a custom resume that doesn’t fit the same-old templates everyone else is using.

Be creative with word choice and the layout of your text. Avoid overused keywords like team-player and self-motivated. Instead, use very descriptive keywords that tell a story about your accomplishments and how you apply your skills. For example, “orchestrated” or “eliminated.”

Never send a resume with grammar or mechanics errors. You might want to lay out your resume in a unique way that highlights your best assets. The advantage you will have over a recent college graduate is the length of your experience so be sure to make note of that on your resume. Don’t sell yourself short by drastically abbreviating or generalizing your experience.

Develop A Sixth Sense for Opportunity

You never know when opportunity might strike. Getting ahead of the competition means developing techniques to find job openings in unique ways. Be sure you are continuously searching for jobs in a variety of places like job boards, newspapers, community colleges, your professional network, etc.

Also be tuned in to opportunities that may arise in less-than-traditional ways. Always be ready to sell yourself. Put your best foot forward wherever you go because you don’t know who might end up as a potential lead.

Use your time wisely. Opt to obtain relevant specialty certifications or volunteer to enhance your skill set. This will help propel you forward and you may make connections to hiring managers in your field.

Get Involved Socially

Social media can be a great resource to reach out to friends or professional contacts who you might not connect with otherwise. Also, it is convenient, free, and accessible to anyone.

Avoid inappropriate photos or comments if you are going to use social media accounts to search for jobs. Be sure to thoroughly screen your own accounts as if you were a hiring manager.

Don’t forget to include your social media handles and links to online portfolios on your resume. This is a great way to allow hiring managers an alternative method of contact or to get some insight into your personality.  

Don’t be discouraged as a job seeker with an influx of college graduates competing for similar positions. Getting ahead of the competition will take a little modification to your current job search techniques, but when executed, will propel you into the job of your dreams in no time.

How have you used your experience and soft skills to land your dream job without a degree? Share your tips here!


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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta is the co-owner and leader of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers. You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, LinkedIn.