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Prove to Employers You're a Lifelong Learner

Being genuinely interested in learning is great. Wise employers want employees whose minds are open and whose curiosity is boundless. These employees will think creatively, seek solutions and be delightful to work with. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, the reality is most employers are too strapped for time and too focused on big projects to go about hiring based on such spiritual concerns. Your resume and cover letter will be hastily thumbed and scanned to find some job experience or company-specific phrases that show the hiring manager you can do the job better than other candidates, and thus let everyone else work on their jobs better, too.

Does this mean lifelong learning doesn't belong on the documents you use to introduce yourself to potential employers? Far from it. Your resume and cover letter are your marketing materials, and all marketers tell their prospects that they understand the prospect's needs and know how to fill them. Here are some of the qualities that you, the lifelong learner, has and your potential employer needs:

  1. You're well-qualified.
  2. You're enthusiastic and motivated.
  3. You're a flexible, adaptable employee. You'll make the employer look good. You're so capable that you, too, can be marketed.

Your resume and cover letter should show that you have fulfilled these needs before and emphasize your desire to let loose your agile brainpower to benefit your new boss and the company.

Here's How

Make sure the information you include is specific to your prospective employer's needs:

  • Mention only education pertinent to the job at hand. Don't bury your qualifications for employment amongst nonprofessional development items. Save the personal-interest education (e.g., a diploma from the School of Rock) for small talk during the interview when you notice the Fender Stratocaster in your prospective boss's office.
  • Keep an education area on your resume if it is current. Update it with courses you've taken, showing dates. This is especially useful if you have traditional education and very effective if you are applying for a position with a company that can benefit from throwing the weight of your educational credentials around in front of clients. "Let me introduce you to Betty, your new, highly qualified project manager. She has five years in development and an MBA from NYU."
  • Show you have stayed current in your field by what you include. For example: "Converted Web site from basic HTML to cascading style sheets."
  • Mention professional affiliations, especially ones that demand continuing education. Indicate your status within professional groups. This shows active involvement and expertise.
  • Indicate any current educational programs. For example: "Currently training to become a certified geriatric pharmacist." Don't mention programs you intend to take. Doing so will make you look inactive.
  • Consider a functional resume. This style of resume shows what you know and what you can do. This is a particularly good option if you have a lot of knowledge and skills that are self-taught or learned on the job. On a traditional resume, your education section might not warrant a close look. But a skills-based resume will let you, the independent learner, really shine.
  • For heavy on-the-job learning, highlight responsibilities that show it. For example: "Researched, designed and implemented a data storage system that saved 100 hours of labor monthly." Educational activities that show you are a problem solver are powerful.

A reminder: Every mention of education on your resume should serve your goal of being a great candidate for the job at hand. Take each statement and ask yourself, "What does this say about me as a worker that my potential employer needs to know?" Being a lifelong learner should give your employer the feeling that you are qualified, adaptable, motivated and presentable.

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