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How a 'Micro-Credential' Could Help You Get Hired

While they're not a degree, these credentials and certifications could help you stand out

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Wolfgang Filser / Getty Images

It's a given that your résumé should present your basic credentials, such as specific skills and work experience. However, you also can make your résumé stand out and potentially speed up your job search by adding any appropriate “micro-credentials” that show how you've augmented your skills over time, especially if you are an older worker.

What are micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials can include online or in-person educational courses, training programs, licenses and certifications that sometimes can even be added together toward earning an advanced degree.

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The following list of free micro-credential and certification courses might spur some thoughts of what would be appropriate in your current or desired career field.

  • Marketing or Social Media Certification
  • Supervision or Leadership Accreditation
  • Advanced Google Analytics Course
  • Google Ads Search Certification

One place you may find free courses that help you develop skills and earn micro-credentials is AARP Skills Builder for Work. This resource lets you to learn new marketable skills online at your own pace. Free courses currently include “Microsoft Office Fundamentals,” “Mastering Today’s Remote Work,” and “Personal Creativity for a Lifetime.” Additionally, AARP members can get valuable discounts on more than 300 other courses available through MindEdge Learning, which has partnered with AARP on the Skills Builder for Work resource.

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A quick search of other options on the internet may help you find something that's right for your interests and experience. In addition, see if your company offers its own training and certification courses or if it will help pay for any you take from an outside source.

If you currently are hunting for a new job, pay attention to which credentials or certifications employers are seeking in the job postings that catch your eye. Then look for education providers — online services, community colleges, nonprofit organizations — that may offer free or affordable training for those micro-credentials.

How will micro-credentials help me?

It's possible that certain certifications will be required for specific situations, such as a major career change, a similar job with a new company, or even for a promotion to another position within your current organization.

During a job search, the right certification can help you stand out from other candidates as someone who wants to stay ahead of the curve by learning new skills or preparing for industry changes. What's more, the right certifications can give you an edge during salary negotiations, either in your current job or when fielding an offer for a new position.

In almost every situation, micro-credentials can enhance your personal brand and credibility, and they can often be a catalyst for networking with other professionals in your field.

Where do they belong on my résumé?

The general rule of thumb is to include your micro-credentials near the end of your résumé under the title “Education and Professional Development.” However, if you have a longer list of certifications/licenses/training programs, you can put them in their own section called “Professional Development” just under the “Education” area.

If any of your micro-credentials are pertinent for specific positions in your job search, you can also include them as part of your professional summary at the beginning of your résumé or create a quick bullet list just under the summary.

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Another option is to include the acronyms of key credentials after your name on the top of the résumé because they immediately establish your proficiency in those skills. Some examples include:

  • CPA: Certified Public Accountant
  • APR: Accreditation in Public Relations
  • CISA: Certified Information Systems Auditor
  • CMP: Certified Meeting Professional
  • CNP: Certified Nonprofit Professional

If you're not sure whether you have earned a professional designation, check with your training or licensing program or do a quick internet search. You can also search for résumés with a licensing or certification section to see formatting examples.

By utilizing these placement options, you create several opportunities for a recruiter, hiring manager or applicant tracking software (ATS) to spot those important credentials in their initial scan of your résumé.

A final caution: Include only those micro-credentials that specifically relate to your job/career objectives. Otherwise, you risk the recruiter missing your most relevant credentials because they're mixed in with a jumble of other unrelated information.

Where else should I show my micro-credentials?

If you're active on LinkedIn (and you should be), list your micro-credentials with your profile.

This is especially important if you're using LinkedIn as a job-search tool, because then you'll show up in any search recruiters create to find someone with those particular skills.

You should also add them to your professional website if you've created one and to any other job search sites you're using. Basically, you can put them in any professional setting that makes sense in light of your career goals.

Where can I learn more about specific micro-credentials?

Start with your current employer to see what training or licensing programs they may offer for your specific occupation or job field. This may be the best route, as many companies will pay for appropriate training for current or even new employees.

You can search the internet and LinkedIn for potential micro-credential programs — either by career field or by specific certifications. What's more, you can use LinkedIn to connect with people who have the certification you want and ask them to recommend training programs, or you might reach out to your current connections in case they have any helpful information to offer.

You can also join LinkedIn groups specifically created for people with a particular certification or license. This will give you a chance to see if you're moving toward the right credentialing program or should look into something else.

Whether you want to gain more expertise in your current field or the pandemic has you looking for a totally new career, it's never too late to go after more skills.

Having the appropriate micro-credentials on your résumé and other professional sites could take months off of your job search, as well as potentially land you in a more exciting, better-paying position in the organization or field of your choice.

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