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Properly Listing Education on a Resume

April 10th, 2021

Oftentimes, I see some awkward management of how people list their education on their résumé. Here are some tips and tricks to help effectively convey your investment into your educational career to prospective employers:

1) Understand what constitutes education. The EDUCATION section of a resume actually is composed of two parts: your formal schooling (with an accredited institution), and then everything else, which should be listed under a separate subheader (not ‘training’, ‘coursework’ or ‘classes’) called “Professional Development.” “Professional Development” constitutes any kind of educational coursework that you’ve taken that enhances/updates your knowledge, hones your skills, and helps you do your job better. This can include workshops, trainings, classes, CEUs, industry certifications, conventions, conferences and the like. Many people can have a lot of listings under this area from years of being at conferences/workshops. Two dimensions that you want to use to cull this down to a shorter list include relevancy towards the job target you are pursuing, and going back no more than 5-7 years. Anything more than that is going to be fairly obsolete – we simply don’t do business now the way we did 10 years ago, and you definitely don’t want to look like an ancient dinosaur who hasn’t keep their knowledge up-to-date!

2) Don’t be afraid to list degrees that weren’t completed. Many people hesitate when told it is okay to list educational degrees that they started but didn’t finish. “It makes me look like I can’t finish something,” is a common concern. Look at it this way: ANY type of learning beyond the high school/GED level shows initiative and an interest in bettering oneself. Give yourself credit for the time, effort and money you’ve invested!

3) Beware the most common educational deception – a ‘perceived’ graduation date. Did you know that the EASIEST thing to check on backgrounds is education? Many people don’t realize this. Several clients of mine have come to me with résumés that, when in our consultation, turn out to be listing a school attended rather than a degree earned. “Bachelor of Science”, the document reads. When I probe a little further, the person clears their throat uncomfortably, and says, “Well… I didn’t REALLY graduate….” If you are playing this game, thinking you are smart, you need to stop. Human resource people are all over this little tactic. Either you graduated or you took program coursework. It’s just that black or white. And believe me, you’d rather hear it in this blog than not to hear that you didn’t get the job for ‘fibbing’ or inaccurately portraying your credentials.

4) Don’t fall into the educational credibility trap. Unless you are seeking employment in an educational or highly technical field which requires constant educational commitments, avoid needlessly listing scholarships, honors, GPAs and for pete’s sake, what year you graduated. The harsh reality, unless you are pursuing the above-mentioned fields, is that employers only care about this: Did you graduate? Yes/No. They don’t care about the other details. And by listing a lot of irrelevant information, you appear desperate to justify yourself. Sure, if you graduated Magna cum laude or similar, you can list this, but the rest of the info just isn’t going to make or break you for the most part!

5) List EDUCATION later in your résumé. Résumé writers and school career centers have a running battle going on about where to list EDUCATION on a résumé, believe it or not. Schools (including colleges, universities and institutes) tell students to put EDUCATION right near the top of their résumé. But again, most employers put more weight on experience versus education. Professional résumé writers advocate listing this section later in the document because you need to address the employer’s priorities first. My own humble opinion is that the school career centers are rather self-serving in that respect- OF COURSE they want the school front and center on that résumé! But is that what the employer really cares about? Not really- experience first, education second (except for educational/technical fields, of course).

6) To include or not to include unrelated educational experience? Good question. The key is to know your audience. If the target company culture values education and adult learning, listing unrelated educational background might make sense. Other times, job seekers are shifting fields, and their formal educational field is incongrous from their new career direction. It’s acceptable to list just the degree (i.e. Bachelor of Science) only if the emphasis going to distract employers.

7) Spell it out! There’s an alphabet soup out there of degree names, and you can’t assume that your intended audience is fluent in the language of academia. Spell out (not abbreviate) every degree.

8) How MUCH education to list? Again, knowing your audience is important. There are lots of articles online that talk about ‘dumbing’ down your résumé, but the truth is, many employers are on a talent shopping spree. They are able to afford top industry talent they couldn’t have just five years ago. Sure, there’s the risk that you’ll jump ship as soon as the economy improves, but if they can hire you now at the top of your game, they stand to benefit. So at least do some research on what the

Education – A Factory or a Greenhouse?

March 10th, 2021

The current public school system was first established during the Industrial Revolution when factory owners needed to have productive employees. They found their raw material amongst the street urchins, who were so prolific at the time. The purpose of the schools was to turn out productive workers. This changed a bit over time so that today the purpose of schools is to turn out productive citizens. The methods have changed little.

Initially the children were taught the necessary skills of Mathematics and Literacy. History and science were added because these are integral to a “classical” education. Second language and art have always been given a lower status as extras. Physical education was added because, unlike the street urchins of the Industrial Revolution, modern children do not get much exercise. So now we have what might be considered a well-rounded curriculum for a modern public school system. And yet many of us know that it is just not working. Various different groups of parents, teachers, politicians, and interest groups have added their bandages to the system but the failings are there for everyone to see. Students are getting poorer and poorer in basic skills such as reading, writing, and calculating. They are often not able to get meaningful jobs, even with a university degree. It might come as a surprise to some, but not to many, that most university graduates are not working in either their field or a job that requires a degree two years after graduation.

When intelligent fixes, applied by highly knowledgeable and experienced people in the field, do not give the desired results, it is time to go back and assess the basic premises. There are two fundamental ideas that the public school system is built on. Primarily, that the purpose of education is to turn out productive citizens. While this is definitely true, we should question whether that is all that it should do. And we need to carefully check how we determine what will constitute a productive citizen. Judging by the statistics from after graduation, we are not doing a very good job. There is an assumption that standardized testing somehow correlates to productivity. An assumption that not only has no foundation in fact, but also does not even make sense.

The second premise is that there is a “best practices” model to be found in education. If we can just find the best method for teaching ________ (you fill in the blank – it applies to all subjects), we will have succeeded. This is a business or factory model. The problem is that children are not metal blobs which can all be formed through the same process into little “productive citizens”. There is no best practice, as any of you with more than one child will know very well.

We need to stop thinking of our schools as factories. We need to think of them as greenhouses, where each seedling receives the care and nurturing required for that individual being to grow and mature. We need to change the entire way that curriculum is delivered, that students are tested, that outcomes are measured. Until we realize that it is time to move beyond the Industrial Revolution, until we realize that children are not widgets, until we realize that productivity does not mean making all children the same, we will continue to fail in the public school system. We will continue to betray the potential of our children.

Sharon Holzscherer

Principal, Mississippi School for the Arts

[http://www.mississippischool.ca]