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The UnCollege Blog

How to Write a Traditional Resume Without Traditional Credentials

By Tiffany Mikell

So, you’re a self-directed learner (or want to be). Congratulations, you’re beginning to understand how to teach yourself anything, anywhere. You are not bound by a classroom or a predefined program structure or the outrageous tuition costs of most traditional institutions.

The world has been your classroom and in addition to being well read - you have a rich portfolio of experiences made up of short term jobs, internships and apprenticeships, mentors and volunteer opportunities. All of these experiences helped to create your unique education and you’re now ready to change the world.

And then it happens. You’re dream job becomes available and it’s time to prepare your resume. The role calls for a 4 year or postgraduate degree. Do you have a chance? Can you outshine your competition that may have traditional credentials? Can you position your qualifications and prove that you’re the best candidate for the job? Absolutely!

Here are 4 ways to make sure your resume is a reflection of how amazing you really are.

1. Focus on accomplishments

Rather than simply listing your experiences - talk about the impact you made in each role. If you built an application, what major bugs did you solve? If you taught a class, how did your students grow from your curriculum? Political organizer? How did your work drive policy or citizen education? Quantify everything. Prove - don’t just state - that you are a value creator and critical thinker.

2. List key skills

What are the hard, transferrable skills that you will bring to this new position? A key skills section allows you to bring immediate attention to the proficiencies that make you perfect for the job. Even roles that are non-technical in nature require basic competency in tools such as advanced Excel, CRMs, web content management and social media platforms. If it’s appropriate, don’t be afraid to list those skills as it can help set you apart from other candidates. For example, a writer who also has HTML and Wordpress skills is a great fit for a publisher looking to build their online presence. To avoid the “jack of all trades/master of none” perception, remember to keep the skill list relevant and role driven.

3. Tell stories about relevant experiences

What classes have you taken? What groups do you lead? Where have you volunteered? Get creative with your resume format and allow room to highlight experiences where you have demonstrated the capabilities that will help you thrive in your dream job. It might help to make a list of all the cool things you’ve been doing in the last couple years and then pull out the most the most pertinent stories. Did you.... manage a budget? mentor or tutor a student? coordinate a community event? register voters? start a meetup? Don’t miss valuable self-marketing opportunities by leaving out relevant real world demonstrations of execution.

4. Build an online portfolio & presence

Leverage the power of the internet to help show off your awesomeness. Online portfolios and personal websites are a great way to prove the amazing value you can add. And again, they immediately help set you apart as a polished professional. You can keep it simple and include links to your blogs, speaking engagements, completed and in progress projects,etc. Tools like Carbonmade and Coroflot allow you to develop a portfolio without being or hiring a web developer. Here are few personal websites that may inspire you. (,, )

We’ve all heard horror stories about a potential or current employer discovering some not so good tweet or pic online and the serious consequences that followed. The cool thing is that you can actually also use social media platforms to build a positive online presence. Tweet about cool stuff you’re interested in and issues you’re following. Use LinkedIn to connect with experts and mentors.

Mastering the art of resume writing is especially important for self-directed learners. You don’t have a degree, but you do have a great deal of real life experience and accomplishments. Fortunately for you, business owners and employers care more about the demonstration of skills than a few letters behind your name. There is a saying that you can be anyone you want to be on the internet. Make it the best you.