Making up for lack of a degree?

Subject: Making up for lack of a degree?
From: Geoff Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 4 Jun 1999 12:18:21 -0400

Jessica Lange observes <<My degree (graphic arts) works
well for the industry I currently work in, but it's not a
Technical Writing or even English degree, which seems to be
a requirement in every TW job ad.>>

There are three kinds of people: those who divide the worlds
into three kinds of people <g>, those who won't even meet
your gaze if you don't have the type of degree they're
seeking, and those who actually care more about your skills
than your credentials. If you meet the first kind of person,
they're probably not hiring (too busy classifying); the second
kind of person really won't look beyond the fact that a B.F.A.
isn't a technical writing degree (they'll drop your resume in
the trash); and the third kind of person will actually take the
time to wonder how you've successfully survived several
years in the industry. I got my first job that way; a manager at
IBM called me, wondering (somewhat irreverently) what a
forester thought he was doing applying to a computer
company. I told him, he interviewed me that afternoon, and I
got the job the next day.

<<Since I got into tech writing 10 years ago, I've tried to
learn as much as I can about it, to constantly improve,
in every way--except a return to college. I go to seminars
and workshops; belong to STC & diligently read Intercom
& the Journal; buy (& read) books on tech writing &
related subjects; subscribe to magazines, both print &
online; search the web for information; and joined
this list.>>

_I'd_ hire you on that basis. But many others wouldn't. To be
fair to the hiring folk, many of them are deluged with resumes
and are more than happy to look for any excuse whatsoever
to exclude you from the competition. See our recurring
discussions on typos on resumes, degrees vs. skills, engineers
vs. literature majors, etc. for details. All else being equal, I
have to admit that personally I would hire the candidate with
the degree, all else being equal. (The last four words are the
key; a degree by itself won't sell me on the candidate.)

<<Is it possible, in a resume, to communicate this active
effort to improve (and overcome the lack of a degree
in this field) or is this something that should be left
for an interview? Or is it all totally irrelevant as far
as a potential employer is concerned?>>

I think it's vital to bring this to an employer's attention, and
particularly on your resume; if it's not on the resume, you
might never get to the interview and the chance to sell
yourself! In a perfect world, an employer would see the
B.F.A., correlate this with 10 years of industry experience,
and say "Eureka! I've found someone who adapts well, learns
fast, and keeps learning". Spot the problem with this
assumption. <g>

<<Jessica N. Lange>>

And if all else fails, tell them you have a rather large monkey
friend* who will trash their office, home, and airforce if they
don't hire you. <gdrlh>

* sly movie reference; extra points if you know the movie.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Who needs rhetorical questions?"--Anon.

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