Resume Strategies for Executives Who Never Went to College

Resume Strategies for Executives Who Never Went to College

I wish I had a nickel for every time I received a call from an executive who qualifies his or her career history with, “But I never went to college.” No matter what some of these people have done in their careers, no matter how big the businesses they built became, and know how much no matter how much money they made, their lack of college education seems to stick in their craws. Maybe it’s the one thing they were never able to do. Maybe it’s the one thing they always wanted to do. In my experience, these executives seem to have the most amazing stories and the best experience, and all of that belongs on their executive resumes.

The question of whether these executives should include their high school degrees on their resumes is almost moot. On the one hand, they could include their high school education, which would only highlight the fact that they never went to college. You never want to draw attention to what an executive recruiter might see as a shortcoming. Rather, it makes sense to turn this apparent lack into an opportunity to showcase your skills and expertise.

On your executive resume, you need to re-title your education section, and call it “Executive Development.” In this section can include a number of critical elements of your training and development. It doesn’t necessarily have to include formal education. Examples of the types of experience to conclude in professional and relevant include:

  • Company training programs.
  • Personal development programs, such as Stephen Covey, or Dale Carnegie.
  • Conferences in your industry.
  • Professional mentor ships, either that you have delivered or participate in.
  • Professional memberships, especially if you have held leadership roles.
  • Any college courses you have ever taken, even if they did not result in a degree.
  • Industry training programs, especially if they resulted in certifications that are relevant to your career goals.

Even if a job posting or job opportunity requires a certain level of education, you will find in many cases that executive recruiters and executive hiring boards might be willing to overlook the fact that you do not have a college education in favor of all of the professional experience you bring to the table. If you find that you are passed over for a particular role because you do not have a college degree, you may consider the fact that that company would be a bad fit for you in any case, and you would not do well in that company’s culture.

The benefit of including all of your professional training and certifications in your executive development section is that it detracts from your not having a college degree– in fact it sidesteps the question entirely and highlights the best of what you have done in the best of what you have learned. As a complement to your executive experience, this executive development showcases that you are an expert in your field and in your industry, which is really what an executive board or executive recruiter is looking for.

Learn why your executive resume isn’t making the cut: Top 5 Resume Mistakes That Say “Don’t Hire Me”

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  • — By Amy L. Adler, CEO, Executive Resume Writer and Career Coach. Amy has won twice in the global TORI Awards for Best Executive Resume. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.

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