“You can’t go to the moon because you’ve never been there.” – Some genius
I was updating my resume the other day and it occurred to me that most resume formats tend to focus on training (education + certifications) and work experience. Whether it’s job experience or your credit score, people with opportunities are going to ask where you’ve been before and why they should make a bet on you. It seems like including your training and experience represent well tread ground, but how would you include other important qualifications that demonstrate your suitability for an opportunity?
What is Proficiency?
Examples abound in the IT field. Do you contribute to open source? Have you ever participated in a hackathon or other collaborative project? Do you volunteer at a non-profit where you’re donating your skills? Do you tinker in your spare time? How do you represent these things to those with opportunities you want to pursue? The term I tend to use for that is ‘Proficiency’
How to Achieve Proficiency
“I teach this shit, I didn’t say I know how to do it.” – Good Will Hunting
So, you’ve spent some valuable hours learning a new language, earning a new certification or finishing your degree. Any of these is a substantial investment in yourself, but not necessarily enough to make you a successful candidate. When I earned my very first certification (the CompTIA A+), I was answering phones for my day job. In order to get my shot at a paying gig, I had to spend time experimenting at home and learning from peers who already had their foot in the door. This was basically a DIY internship but it set up a path to my first paying job in IT.
Once I’d fully embraced the field as a professional, it was important to continue to grow and learn within the field. It’s true that IT knowledge becomes obsolete at an alarming rate as new technologies are introduced or refined. The various sections of your resume will be a record of these evolutionary iterations of yourself over time.
How to Demonstrate Proficiency
“Oh! And it’s scented! I think it gives it a little something extra, don’t you think?” – Elle Woods
For me, I’ve got the typical Education and Professional Experience sections listed. However, I’ve added Skills & Specializations (this is where specific languages or frameworks can go), Certifications (industry certifications that are appropriate to the role) and Special Qualifications (my speaking engagements and body of writing).
Anything you put on a resume is something you’ll need to be able to talk about immediately in any stage of your interviewing process, whether it’s for paid work or otherwise. Your mileage may vary, of course. I think the key takeaway here is to own the format and representation of your skill set. This can (and should) include things you did in your spare time as they represent investments you’ve made in yourself that didn’t necessarily involve a classroom or a paycheck. With the right opportunity, it might even be more important as it’s a living record of your passion for your trade.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to firstname.lastname@example.org.