Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tip of the day: Minimize your education

Tip: Your education is the foundation of your qualifications. That means it should be thin, dense, and at the bottom.

As someone who spent far too much time (and, ahem, money) pursuing my higher education, this was one of the hardest things for me to achieve with my resume. It's difficult to put something so important into a perspective other than my own. It's difficult to reduce seven and a half years of my life (don't ask) to just a couple bullet points. It's difficult to look at my resume and think, "Is that all there was?"

But remember: your resume is not a story. It's a snapshot of your experience

How to incorporate your education into your resume

  • List chronologically by degree or program. I've seen people try to get fancy by grouping coursework together to make it seem more cohesive, but the simplest approach is the best. 
  • Name it; don't explain it. Give the name of your major, minor, training focus, or professional certification, but don't get bogged down explaining why those things are relevant. This is actually remarkably easy, since hiring managers are already familiar with the relevant certifications, and are pretty well conversant with fields of academic study. So go ahead and list your MCSE or your MA by name, then move on to the next line.
  • Two bullets. I'm not kidding about this, and it's the hard part. For each degree or program, try as hard as you can to limit yourself to a single bullet point of explanation, and keep that to just one line. Give yourself an extra bullet point for something truly extraordinary or relevant, like honors or your thesis. 
Think of it as an exercise in perspective. You know how important your education is to you, and you understandably want your hiring manager to know as well. But since you're limiting yourself to just one page, every line you spend on education is a line you can't spend on experience. Ask yourself: Is your coursework truly a better qualification than the successful launch of your last new product? More important than that videography project you managed as an intern? Once you start thinking in terms of priority and seeing your resume as a single unified document instead of a story, it becomes easier to make those decisions.