Dear Sam: I need help constructing my résumé. I have owned a small business for 4 years and want to transition back into an employee/employer role. Most of my experience lies in customer service and administrative positions, but owning my business has given me exposure to managing employees and sales and marketing functions.
I read on your 'Dear Sam' blog on your website that I might need to take out any education that I did not finish, and perhaps remove any education that does not relate to my job search? A contact also suggested that there was a better way to showcase my abilities instead of stating the job and then my job duties. If you have any advice I'd appreciate it! - Lori
Dear Lori: It's often difficult to make the sales pitch that after being an entrepreneur you are ready to reengage in a more traditional employee/employer role. Key to facilitating this transition, and selling yourself as a viable candidate, are the following approaches:
1. Define your target: You have to realize that as an entrepreneur and small business owner you were essentially a one-woman-show, Jill-of-all-trades, etc. While this is wonderful in providing you with exposure to different operational functions, you will rarely find a position in Corporate America that requires such a diverse skill set. Because of that, and because the market is incredibly saturated with qualified candidates, you have to define your target position before you sit down to craft your résumé.
2. Understand your audience: With your target defined (administration, customer service, office management, marketing, sales?) you will need to figure out what message you need to convey to your audience in order to prompt action. To do this effectively review multiple job postings of interest from your targeted field and become intimately familiar with the language they are speaking. By that I mean study the skills, experiences, credentials, and all other requirements of your positions of interest so that when crafting your résumé you can speak that same language in the presentation of your background.
3. Define your approach: With a clear understanding of your target audience and messaging strategy, it's time to figure out what format your résumé should be. If, like you, you have no breaks in your experience or the chronology of your career, then a reverse-chronological résumé is likely best. If you did have breaks or wanted to minimize the appearance of certain recent and less relevant positions, then perhaps a combination format would be the way to go.
4. Craft your content: Your contact is correct in that your résumé should focus on your accomplishments or the areas in which you excelled versus narrating your job description. While it is critical to convey a certain amount of your job it is much more important to focus the reader's time and attention on how you added value to your role. Think about ways you impacted efficiency, productivity, or organizational effectiveness. How did you outperform your peers? How can you differentiate yourself from the competition who may have held very similar roles?
5. Select value-added information: You are also correct in that you do not have to include everything on your résumé. You can certainly omit dated experiences that would perhaps unnecessarily age your candidacy and overqualify you for your target positions. Likewise you can also omit incomplete educational pursuits if they do nothing but highlight what you don't have. For example, if you went to a trade school which has nothing to do with your current pursuits, then omitting helps present a more targeted image of your candidacy to potential employers. Likewise, it is often smarter to omit partially completed college degrees-especially if you only completed a year or two of general education courses-as this tends to tell an employer, I don't have a degree not I have completed half a degree. You have to make that decision based on whether the job of interest requires or simply prefers a degree. If that credential is required, highlighting you do not have it is not a wise approach, however it if is simply preferred then you are not likely to be disqualified for not possessing the credential.
6. Refine your formatting: Taking the time to create a strong visual aesthetic if often overlooked in today's résumés. With hiring managers reviewing hundreds if not thousands of résumés for each open position, taking the time to make your content strong and your presentation attractive can go a long way to improving your screening time. With the screening process being as short as 4-7-seconds (according to recent surveys) I am sure you can see the importance of not only making your content convey the right message but making the package compel readership and hold interest.
I am certain that when you follow these steps-truly a reflection of the basic principles you learn in Marketing 101-you will present the right image to potential employers, improving your chances of being seen as a viable candidate to transition back into an employee role. Check out samples on my blog (www.ladybug-design.com/blog) for an illustration of each step of the above process. I wish you job search success!
Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Do you have a résumé or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Sam's résumé writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.com or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).