Dear Sam: I am a self-taught artist. I am very passionate about art and design and continue to learn every day, but I feel that the lack of any college studies and a degree is preventing me from getting a good design job. I know as much, if not more, than a college graduate about art and design but don’t know how to communicate that. How can I do this, and what do I put in the education section of my résumé? — Sam G.
Dear Sam: I can feel the frustration in your letter. While there is little you can do when a degree is a staunch requirement for a position, there is a lot you can do on your résumé to ensure that you are a candidate that stands out, regardless of your academic background.
First, I hope your résumé looks fantastic, meaning you designed something unique and eye-catching to really showcase your design talents. Your résumé should be a representation of who you are as a designer and artist, showcasing some of your work. Team this with great content to really minimize the impact of the potential disqualifier of not having a formal education.
After taking a peek at your websites, I can see you are very talented in many forms of design; maybe this could be your key selling point. If you develop a résumé that presents your vast design talents (print and web, illustration and computer graphics, etc.), highlights your notable professional and freelance engagements, and also presents a little of your personality, your experience is sure to jump off the page.
Be a tad conservative in the overall design of your résumé, just to ensure that you don’t offend anyone who doesn’t share a right-brained style of thinking — but definitely showcase your talents through an amazing aesthetic, and possibly a snapshot portfolio.
Regarding your question of what to include in the education section, change the name of this section to “Strengths & Style,” and use the space to note all of the programs and techniques you have taught yourself over the years. Don’t say anything about not having a degree; it is entirely likely that the reader may not even realize a degree is missing when presented with a great-looking, well-written résumé.
By following this strategy, you will only present reasons to bring you in for an interview, not reasons to disqualify you from going further in the process.
— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to email@example.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.