How to include self-taught tech skills in my resumé?
June 1, 2012 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Resumé filter: how do you tailor your resumé when you're applying to a job in which you have relevant (self-taught) skills, but no prior work experience in the field?

So I'm in the process of making a major transition in my writing career, both in medium and geography, and in the meantime, I need to get a day job to pay the bills.

Over the past few years, as the owner of a couple of old and out-of-warrantee Mac products, I started teaching myself how to do some basic diagnostics and repairs. Pretty soon my friends were bringing me all their post-Applecare Macs when they had problems, and I got pretty good at it.

So I figured that working with Macs must be more lucrative than slinging lattes or walking dogs, so I took the online training course, passed Apple's certification exams, and am now a licensed AppleCare Mac Technician. (So I've got that going for me, which is nice.)

So now I'm in the position of applying for my first non-writing/editing job in many years, and the first computer/tech related job of my life. My question is, how do I draw up a resumé for these kinds of jobs when my prior work experience is pretty much unrelated? How do I include the various computer skills I've gained as a self-taught hobbyist?
posted by patnasty to Work & Money (8 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Draw out the parts of your previous jobs that are relevant to any job, that show ability to complete tasks unsupervised or quickly learn new skills.

But mostly, work on a killer paragraph for the cover letter that explains why you're making this transition and the steps you've taken to be competitive with people who have more traditional resumes.
posted by Etrigan at 3:56 PM on June 1, 2012

Best answer: You might consider a functional resume, which highlights skills rather a chronological one. And also emphasize your skills in the cover letter.
posted by shoesietart at 4:06 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not uncommon in tech resumes to highlight skills first, then give past job information, so your skills are right up at the top - because certifications and proven skills are important (while job experience and education counts, it's often much less so than in other careers - the focus is a lot more on "can you do what we're looking for?"). Include in your skills list all the buzzwords that the description of the position is asking for - whoever (or whatever, it's not always a person) is weeding through the resumes will be first and foremost looking for those words, so this is key. And yes, tailor your cover letter to explain why you're a good fit for the job as well - confidently, in such a way that you don't sound apologetic or like you think you're a lesser candidate because you don't have prior work experience, because after all, you have the skills they're looking for.
posted by flex at 4:28 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Skills section first; and if possible, also have bullet points describing the projects you did, rather than just listing the skill listed. (Ok to do a list of skills and then a list of projects, titled "relevant personal projects" or something like that.) Many recruiters are happy to talk to candidates whose experience comes from personal initiative and passion for the work (and discipline to complete private projects) rather than just job duties! Don't omit the job history though; just put it in the next section of the resume. Many companies will throw a resume right in the trash if it omits the chronology.

Agree that you should also write an excellent cover letter explaining the reason for the transition; but don't trust that it'll get read - it might not. Make sure anything related to your skill set and experience is on the resume itself. Good luck!
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:30 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't see why you couldn't throw something like "Freelance (or independent) computer technician" under your jobs category to represent the repairs/diagnostics that you did for your friends?
posted by kylej at 7:51 PM on June 1, 2012

You are a self-employed Apple technician. The fact that you chose to work for free, or beer or however you friends may have paid you is not really relevant.
posted by COD at 8:30 PM on June 1, 2012

Best answer: I don't see why you couldn't throw something like "Freelance (or independent) computer technician" under your jobs category to represent the repairs/diagnostics that you did for your friends?
You are a self-employed Apple technician.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't do this, but if a resume has a full-time job and something like "freelance/independent" in the same timeframe, then you must include hard numbers of clients or projects. Otherwise, HR people (of which I was one, admittedly not at a tech company, but I did hire IT people) can take it one of two ways:
1) You are awesomely entrepreneurial and self-motivating because you ran a side business.
2) You know how to hit CTRL-ALT-DEL, and your slightly-dumber-than-you friends call you when their computers quit working.

These days, when there are dozens of applicants for every decent job, it's a lot easier to look for a reason to reject you than to accept -- don't give them that opportunity by being vague on something like this and letting them assume that you're in group 2.
posted by Etrigan at 8:53 PM on June 1, 2012

Best answer: Hi Senior IT person here. We recently had the same situation for a mid-life career change person that had invested time and money to become Microsoft Certified.

Our biggest problem was that he was completely green, however he was up front with the skills and certification and displayed the most important trait of all --- willing to learn and eager for an opportunity.

On your CV, as the others have recommended make sure your certification stands out. The other important aspect here to tailor that certification to your work with friends etc. Etrigan hits the nail on the head with how things can be taken two ways. If you are outgoing, enthuiastic and can SELL yourself, then go the route of saying self-employed apple technician looking for new ventures. If not, be up front and honest and explain very clearly and concisely your commitment.

Personally I am thrilled to see people take self-initiative instead of waiting for someone to hand things out on a plate. I would always at the very least consider someone in your position due to the fact we can mold and grow the skillsets to what the company needs.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 2:06 AM on June 2, 2012

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