How to prove you possess job skills if you don't have a degree
Employers are always looking for talent with hands-on experience — yet in most cases, they still want you to have a degree that proves your qualifications. But what if you’re self-taught? Or what if you acquired your skills while you were on the job? Here are a few strategies you can employ to prove you possess the right job skills — even if you don’t have a degree.
- Set up your own website to showcase your work and abilities. Even if you aren’t a graphic designer or other creative professional, it’s wise to maintain a website where employers can read your bio and view your résumé. You can also include a section where you describe what types of projects you’ve worked on — and you can even set up your own blog to demonstrate your thought leadership.
- Highlight your equivalent experience. As Alison Doyle points out in her article “What Employers Mean by Equivalent Experience” for The Balance, sometimes employers will consider a certain amount or type of work experience instead of a degree. If this is the case, they will state it in the job posting. Make sure that you can speak knowledgeably about your area of expertise and be prepared to describe precisely what type of skills and experience you have.
- Provide great references. It’s advisable to have a minimum of three — and preferably five — good references from your previous jobs. Before you apply to a job posting, contact each of your references and ask them politely if they’re willing to speak to your skills and experience. Note that for potential employers, it’s reassuring when your previous supervisors praise your hard work and accomplishments.
- Offer to prove you have the desired skills. There are several ways to go about this. First, you can offer to take an aptitude test, which is something more and more employers require during the job application process anyway. And second, you can also offer your insights on how to address a specific challenge the company or department is facing. Note that it’s important to take your time and get sufficient information about the challenge, even if it’s tempting to suggest a solution off the top of your head. This will show the potential employer that you’re thoughtful and want to consider every angle before providing a solution.
If over time, you find that employers are passing you over for positions you want, it’s wise to invest in obtaining a certificate or degree. Fortunately, there are many schools that offer online classes that enable you to pursue a certificate or even a degree remotely. So you might have to settle for a lower level job initially, but once you have the qualification as well as the practical experience, you’re likely to become a top candidate for the job you want.
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