Tips for Graduates with the “Wrong” Degree

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Many of us graduated college with a degree that we were passionate about, only to discover that our area of study was difficult to apply to the job market.  Perhaps you majored in Philosophy or Creative Writing, leaving you to feel a bit hopeless when applying to jobs in the Finance or Technology sector.  But there are always exceptions to the rule, as well as steps you can take to turn yourself into a great candidate.  Read ahead:

Gain Experience

Sure, it’s great to come in armed with the proper knowledge right out of college, but as many will tell you, real world experience is actually more valuable than book smarts.  If you’re gunning for a job that’s out of the realm of your college degree, find ways to gain experience in that field.  This may mean taking a lower level position or an internship (which you may be able to parlay into a career), or even volunteering.


Some individuals lament over their lack of familiarity with a particular subject matter, and consequently rule out jobs before they even consider applying.  But there is nothing to stop you from learning the ins and outs of a particular field on your own – familiarize yourself with the industry, keep up with relevant literature and current events, and teach yourself some pertinent skills.  This kind of self-education will make you more qualified and display great initiative on your part.

Transferable Skills

Don’t dismiss the importance of transferable skills in helping you land your dream job.  There are many skills that transfer nicely from industry to industry, and you should identify yours and make sure to highlight them on your resume. Companies love diversity, and candidates that garnered desirable skills in new and different ways are often far more attractive than the cookie-cutter applicants that companies receive day in and day out.


You’ve heard that it’s much easier to get a job if you know someone on the inside.  One of the reasons this is so important is because this person can vouch for you and cover questions that may arise in regards to your knowledge or experience.  Though you may not have the right educational background for a job, there are probably reasons why you can do the job as well as (or even better than) other qualified candidates – reasons that, unfortunately, may never come up on your resume or cover letter.  If you know someone in the right industry who is aware of this fact, they can advocate on your behalf and inform the company about your talents and qualifications.

Not everyone has the foresight at 18 to know exactly what they want to do with their life and to properly pick a major that will catapult their career.  And some of us stuck more to what captivated our attention than to what seemed practical.  But if you play it right, your unorthodox degree can become a great asset for you in the job search.

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

Leverage Education to Land a New Job

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC –

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Getting additional training is a critical part of job preparation throughout your career. Packaging that information effectively in the resume is not always as clear-cut. Based on how much time and money you have invested, training experiences may be more important to you personally than they are critical to landing a job. You may need some assistance in objectively placing the training where it belongs on your resume. Consider these tips to effectively present education and training experiences in your resume.

Placement: Where do I put my education?

The current format for most resumes does not lead with education.  In fact, it is not wise for someone with a solid career — and who recently obtained a degree – to lead with his/her education. Doing so may give the mistaken impression that your education is your strongest asset, implying that your experience may not be as impressive, is sketchy, or falls short in some fashion.

Emphasis:  How much should I include about my education?

Similar questions about your work history may be raised in the reader’s mind when extensive training experiences are included.  In fact a lengthy list of training may obscure your talents, again giving the reader the impression that your training overshadows your work experience or is even meant to obfuscate actual details of your career. In other words, the question may form in the reader’s mind – what is she / he trying to cover up?

Education Dates:  Should I include graduation or training dates?

Unless you are a recent graduate, it is not necessary to include specific dates of graduation.  In fact, including dates on early degrees may actually make you vulnerable to ageism. Including dates of education and training also clutters the resume and takes up valuable space that could be used for outlining other strengths.

No Degree: How do I handle the lack of a degree?

Including extensive training experiences can also be an attempt to over-compensate for the lack of a completed degree. Of course, a degree is an important credential, but if you don’t have one or didn’t complete all the requirements, don’t attempt to hide that fact.  It will only “come back to bite you”.  An option for managing the lack of a degree is provided below.


Business Coursework (non-degree)

ABC University, Anywhere, USA

Annual Training: How do I decide what to include?

To manage extensive training or even annual certifications that you want to include, but don’t want to take up all the valuable real estate on the resume, group similar trainings together or indicate successive years for annual licensure or certifications, such as with first aid or safety training.

Professional Development / Certifications

First Aid Training (Annual Certifications 2005-2010)

Management by Proxy / Supervising Remotely

Future Education Plans:  How do I handle my intent to apply?

You may also be tempted to include additional training or education that is part of your future plan, but for which you have not been accepted.  Don’t succumb to the temptation.  Only include educational experiences you have actually completed or that are in process.  If you just began the program and feel self-conscious about stating that you won’t graduate for another 3 years simply include “in process” or the date of matriculation into the program.


Bachelor of Arts in Business Management (in process)

ABC University, Anywhere, USA

Bachelor of Arts in Business Management (matriculated into program 2010)

ABC University, Anywhere, USA

Time Off for Education: How do I handle work gaps for education?

You can also add an educational note in the midst of your work history to explain any gaps for school-related activities.  Place the note chronologically as if it were a position, exactly when it occurred.  This serves to explain the offending gap in your employment, answering the question in the reader’s mind before they have a chance to ask it, and highlights your commitment to continued professional development. That blend of education and experience is typically the strongest presentation for any job candidate.

Tailor your resume by including your most important attributes and experiences early in the resume.  Remember, placement of education later in the resume doesn’t diminish its importance.  The education then becomes the foundation, consistent with its place in your career progression.  Because of your personal and financial investment in the process, you may be over-valuing the importance of educational and training activities because they are important to you personally.  Try to be objective or ask a trusted colleague or professional service for feedback if you feel too invested in putting your education first on your resume!

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!