Thinking out of the box
Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer with a graduate degree in Marketing and Communication, and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume writing and interview coaching firm. For more information, call 1-888-9-LADYBUG or visit http://www.ladybug-design.com
Dear Sam: Since graduating from college, I have yet to find a steady job; thus, I have held different types of jobs. I am afraid not to include all of them on my résumé just in case one should position me for an opportunity of interest. I am 27 years old, and while I still do not know what job I want, I desperately need career-level pay. I feel my best chances of securing such a job are finding something in line with my degree in communications. I should also mention I am in an internship currently that is not listed on my résumé. — Ashley
Dear Ashley: I am sorry to hear you have struggled finding work since graduating from college in 2008. I can see—from a cursory review of your résumé—that you held two internships prior to graduation, and since graduation, you have engaged in elementary school teaching positions, a customer service role in a bank, and a temporary role with the U.S. Census Bureau. You are right; these positions do not paint a consistent picture in terms of field or tenure.
If you are a reader of the column, you have probably learned that functional résumés should be used sparingly. Functional résumés are formatted in a way that minimizes job hops, employment gaps, and lesser-related roles. This format, while not advocated often, I believe would serve you well. Let me explain how to implement, based on your candidacy.
As you have defined you are seeking communications and public relations roles, map the requirements sought for the roles you are seeking. To do this, review many job postings of interest to gain insight into the "flavor" of the language used, the skills required, and the experiences preferred. Once armed with this information, you can begin to categorize the experience you do have into related functional areas.
Once you have defined the functional areas that best relate to your background and your current career target—these may be Communications, Messaging, Customer Engagement, Project Leadership, etc.—think about each of your roles in terms of these functional subheadings. Describe your positions within the realm of these headings, not worrying about whether your most recent experience is introduced first. For example, if your earlier and current internships are most relevant to your current career target, feel free to develop the majority of the content for select functional areas based on those experiences. Try to achieve a bullet point or two from each role, again, described based on the transferability of those experiences to where you want to go next.
At the end of your "Highlights" section, you will place a brief "Work History" section simply presenting your employer, title, and tenure. The goal of presenting your work history in this fashion is to show how the body of your professional and academic qualifications position you as qualified for the next step in your career. Rather than presenting each role separately and needing the hiring manager to figure out how each role built on one another and worked together to create the candidate you are today, the functional résumé format allows you more freedom on telling that story. While I do not often advocate for its use, in your situation I feel your candidacy would look stronger in a functional design rather than a traditional reverse chronological or combination approach. With the latter approaches, my fear would be that you would be seen as a budding early education teacher who has not been able to secure a full-time teaching role, therefore looking for a fallback position. Even if this were the case, you would not want to send that message on your résumé.
I have included an example of a functional résumé for your review. I hope that presenting your candidacy in a new way improves the impact of your search and helps you land the career position you need. Best to you.
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Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Do you have a resume or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at email@example.com. For more about Sam's resume writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.com or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).