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How to convince employers if you have a non-traditional education path

Where you used to have to read physical manuals and books to master certain skills, things have changed a bit since the rise of the internet. One simple search on YouTube or Google and you will find videos and articles from experts who can teach you almost anything. It is therefore not surprising that there are more and more self-taught people. People without specific vocational training can still find a job in a specific field. But how do you create a resume as a self-taught person? Below we share useful tips that will help you.

Do you have a chance of getting a job as a self-taught person?

Naturally, you will need formal training for many professions. For example, as a self-taught doctor or IP lawyer you will never be able to obtain that job, because this by law requires a university education. However, there are also more than enough professions that you can both study for and teach yourself. Your chance of getting a particular job depends, among other things, on how good you are and how well you can sell yourself in your CV. We can at least help you with the latter.

Some examples of jobs that you could potentially learn by yourself are programmer, graphics designer, grant writer, magazine writer, coach and tutor.

How to create a resume as a self-taught person?

This is how to create a self-taught resume in 5 steps:

1. Make sure the base is in place

Creating a CV remains a difficult task for many applicants. Whether you write a self-taught CV or a 'normal' CV, the basics must be in place. This means that you always mention the mandatory components, ensure a clear and easy-to-read CV and formulate good and powerful CV sentences. A clear CV with an overview and structure will go a long way.

2. Write a unique personal profile

As an autodidact you naturally have quite a unique story. After all, you have taught yourself a certain skill, which you are convinced that you can now do so well that you can get paid for it. How you got there always serves as a nice opening that is certainly worth mentioning in your personal profile.

Briefly tell us how you got to where you are today, where does your interest come from and how did you get started? Try to explain in a few short sentences who you are, what you can do and what added value you can offer. With your unique story you can of course distinguish yourself from other applicants.

3. Mention your work experience
A big mistake that we see many self-taught people make is that they skip the 'work experience' section, while this is the most important part of the entire CV. They have the wrong impression that they have no work experience at all and therefore skip the part. Nothing is less true!

As an autodidact, it is almost inevitable that you have had to apply your acquired skills in practice in some way or another. Whether it is a personal project, an internship, volunteer work or something else, the chance that you have some work experience is very high. Skipping this would be a big missed opportunity. Therefore, mention all forms of practical experience. Examples could be

  • Internships
  • Volunteer work
  • Projects
  • Courses and certificates
  • Your own website(s)

Of course, these are also parts that you can possibly create a separate section on your resume. Ultimately, you will have to decide that yourself.

4. Name all your education

Naturally, you had to do something yourself to learn the skills you now possess. How this came about should not be missing from your CV. Whether it is a online course, YouTube videos or an old-fashioned book, mention under your training what you have done to master the skills.

5. Emphasize your skills

Finally, you will have to demonstrate your skills in a separate section. These are the skills that you should have already highlighted in the other parts of your CV. For programmers, it can be different programming languages or frameworks. With Graphic Designers you might incorporate certain programs, styles or ways in which you work. The skill section of your resume is especially important since you have to highlight how you acquired certain skills rather than through a recognized institution.

Be prepared for certain interview questions

As a self-taught person, you can of course expect a number of questions during the job interview. Potential employers and recruiters will want to 'test' in one way or another whether you actually possess the skills that make you a fully-fledged [insert profession].

Examples could be:

  • Why haven't you followed a specific education?
  • How did the self-study go?
  • What methods and resources did you use to teach yourself XYZ?
  • Why should I choose you over a candidate with an education?
  • Are there skills you lack because you don't have formal training?

There are probably more questions that can be asked. Try to think of what questions might be asked for your own situation. By preparing for it and having an answer ready, you can at least be sure that you will not be left speechless.


Article written by Reinier van der Galiën.


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