Sell Your Skills, Not Your Degree

By Reyna Gobel AAA

Since you graduated, you've probably developed skills beyond what you learned in college. Therefore, you may not have to go back to college if you want or need to change careers. In fact, if you're looking to make a career move, you might be more successful if you look more broadly at your set of skills and learn how to sell those to employers outside of your current career and education niche.

Focus Your Career Goals
Do you already know what you want your next career move to be? If so, you can jump ahead to the section on creating a skills-based resume. If you don't, you have several options.

First, make a list of what you are looking for in a new career. For instance, are you thinking about changing jobs because you no longer want to sit in a cubicle for eight hours a day? Then your list should include something like "must involve being away from my desk at least four hours per day." Similarly, you may want to have a job that doesn't require a lot of overtime. Consider your preferences for required travel or working on projects in teams or independently. You may not get everything you want, but brainstorming is a great start.

Next, conduct research using descriptions of what you are looking for in a career. Ignore jobs you know are outside of your field of interest. For instance, if somehow "lion tamer" comes up in your search - and your friend's cat makes you nervous - you should eliminate it from any further discussion.

Based on your search results, narrow research to careers that fit at least five out of 10 things you want in a new career. Pick five careers for building a skills-based resume.

University career centers can help you with the following:

  • Career tests to help you find what you might like to do next
  • Job placement
  • Resume review and workshops

Volunteering
Still not sure what your next move should be or need guidance in defining your career goals? Volunteer for a charity organization and/or call the career center at your old university for help. Remember to bring the list of what you are looking for in a new career position with you.

Volunteers at nonprofit organizations are often given as much responsibility as they want to have and extra guidance because they are working for free. You could learn leadership and training skills while showing newer volunteers the ropes or marketing and sales skills while helping to promote charity events. Let volunteer coordinators know what your skills are, so they can assign tasks to help you move forward.

Create a Skills-Based Resume

Step 1: List all jobs you've held.
Jot down at least five tasks you performed in each job. For instance, working in teams to create ad campaigns, helping customers find the right products within your company's product line, making travel arrangements for industry conventions or negotiating prices with suppliers.

Then, under each task, write down how you completed this task. Not only will you see one-word skills such as "organizing" or "problem solving", but you'll also find the expanded details you need for adding specifics to your resume. You will not copy your job listings into your resume, but this exercise will be the basis for step three.

Step 2: Browse career sites for your skills.
Select the new career fields in which you are interested. Then, enter descriptions of your skills one at a time into the search box.This will help you determine the specific position titles that could work with the skills you have. Pick five job listings to mull over and study the full descriptions.

Step 3: Showcase skills that fit descriptions of your desired positions.
Pick two skills you possess that match the job listings you selected. Create separate skills sections for your resume for each position. For instance, a resume for an event planning position could list travel planning and problem solving as skills. Skills you could use for a merchandising manager position might include organization, negotiation and/or market analysis.

After picking two of your skills per job, add five to 10 bullets under each skill with your accomplishments in this area. The bullets should be similar to the bullets in step two, but your accomplishment listings will be more detailed.

Step 4: Format your resume.

  • Put your name, address, and contact information at the top.
  • Objective - Limit your objective to one sentence that specifies an objective directed at the specific position to which you are applying. Don't write that you are looking for new experiences in a creative field. Specify what you want to do for that company.
  • Have a section for education below your skills. You want your skills to stand out more than your degree.
  • Summary of your experience. List all your post-college jobs, your dates of employment and the city and state. If you have a lengthy career history, limit your previous jobs section to where you developed the skills in your resume. Volunteer positions can be included.
  • Limit your entire resume to one page

The Bottom Line
Most people will change careers at least once in their lives; some will change occupations multiple times. If you went back to school each time, you'd take on a new professional title: lifetime student. Use your professional skills to catapult you into a new career field instead.

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