If I'm a young person without a college degree, how can I signal to employers that I do still have an education, even if it isn't a formal one? How can I best show off the work I've put into studying subjects intensely and on my own time, so that the sum of my efforts looks as legitimate as a degree?


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Mr. Nguyen and Dr. Miller have given you great replies. I also recommend showcasing your expertise. Whatever it is that you are learning, you can set up a blog, a website, an online portfolio or a YouTube piece to demonstrate your skills in what you know. For example, you can blog about recent news in your field or create video tutorials based around what you've learned and tried.

I also recommend getting on social media and following thought leaders and experts in your field. Engage with them through their own writings, talks, videos and work, by commenting, sharing, and putting forth your own non-controversial opinion. You might additionally want to follow companies that you'd like to work for to see what direction they are headed and what's on their radar in terms of topics, skill sets and ideas. The proof of how well your studies are going can be seen in how well you keep up with the field and can comment on what is going on with it right now. Good luck!

Anonymous, Former graduate student

While this can be a tougher process, it is definitely possible. Firstly, I would recommend you getting a list of strong references that can back you up. By "strong" I mean that they know your work ethic and education well and would be able to back to you for whatever position(s) you are applying to. Having a strong reference backing is invaluable to your credibility.

Next, I would focus on writing a resume that would be able to reflect these references, as well as any relevant training/education you have had. I would expect any potential employer to inquire about a lack of degree or college education if the job typically calls for it. As long as you are able to explain to the interviewer that your education is adequate in performing the job/tasks, and you have references that can back up your statements (again, major emphasis on reliable references), you should be in good shape.

Now, there may be employers out there that may not even consider applicants without a formal college education, but that's just how some companies may be and will have to be something that you live with. Don't let this be discouraging, however, because any company that highly values growth and its employees will be able to see that you can perform the work despite your background. I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck!

Dr. Suzanne M. Miller, Alternative education

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Great, but challenging, question. Fortunately, we live in 2016, where self-education is somewhat more accepted. Check out Chris Guillebeau's work for inspiration.

Here are tips I suggest for making your efforts shine in a more formal way: 1. Gather recommendations from people who can attest to your efforts. Make sure they are outstanding recs. 2. Create a professional resume detailing your study. 3. If at all possible, obtain certificates from coursework completed (from Coursera, for example). 4. Obtain an internship where you can put these skills to great use and start building formal work experience. You will likely not be paid at first, but the internship experience can be priceless when trying to get your foot in the door. 5. Put your skills to use through community service and extracurricular activities. These can again go on a resume. 6. Create something with your skills. Have you taught yourself computer science? If so, write a fantastic code to show off. Are you an artist? Create a portfolio. Do you love business? Start a business yourself and show how successful it has been. 7. Find a mentor. Yes, we are a college-focused culture. But we are also a culture that pays a lot of attention to what people say. Finding a mentor who can guide and recommend you can be just as important as a college degree when trying to get your foot in the door with employers.

Best of luck!

-Dr. Miller

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