Dear Sam: I am thinking about relocating within the state. I've been using a functional résumé due to the fact that I have quite a few employment gaps. In the past three years, I have had two children, and because my pregnancies were considered high risk, I had to stay home on bed rest. I have a bachelor's degree in business administration with a specialization in accounting and I'm finding it difficult to get my foot in the door for an entry-level position in accounting. Since I've never been in the accounting field, I've kind of lost the knowledge and training that I received in college, where I graduated in 2003. I was thinking about going through a career training organization to get step-by-step training in accounting to regain my focus, but I still don't know if I am going to go that route yet. During the time of my pregnancy and post pregnancy, I kept losing my jobs due to my high-risk situation or my children being sick all of the time because of their asthma or heart murmurs. Right now, I am a stay-at-home mom ready to go back to the workforce. What do you suggest? - S.
Dear S.: Thank you for your question. I'm sorry to hear of your situation over the past few years, and hope your little ones are now healthy and thriving. I'd likely not use a functional résumé in your situation. Functional résumés are generally disliked by the hiring community, as they present a disconnected and often confusing image of a candidate's experience. I understand why you feel this format would hide the appearance of "job-hopping" over the past few years, but I doubt it really would do that in your situation. As a recent graduate, you don't have a lot of experience to be able to use this strategy effectively. With most effective functional résumés, the work history section and dates of employment are pushed to the bottom of page two of your résumé; but in your situation, I doubt there is enough experience to warrant a two-page resume. When this happens, and the work history section is presented on page one, you really don't hide anything and the strategy becomes ineffective.
Instead of using a functional format, review the past few years of your experience and decide what needs to be presented on your résumé. You do not have to present every position you have held since graduation; only present those that were for more than a few months and those that actually support or enhance your candidacy. Additionally, never use the months of employment on your résumé. By presenting only the years of employment, you immediately minimize the appearance of having changed jobs frequently. In your situation, present your education directly under the qualifications summary, as this will still be a key qualifier in your candidacy. You may also want to develop a career highlights section that would serve as an overview of your hands-on experience. When reviewing the qualifications summary, education section with related coursework pulled out, and a solid career highlights section, hiring managers will gain a greater understanding of your qualifications before they even reach the professional experience section.
As far as returning to school to receive additional training, that certainly could strengthen your candidacy, but maybe working through an accounting temporary agency could do the same. I don't know if you have ever thought of approaching an agency, but they will have the entry-level positions you are seeking, and that will provide the hands-on experience and focus you feel you need. You may also want to call some agencies to review your existing qualifications and ask for some guidance on what they feel area employers are looking for in a candidate at your level. You may find that you have the required background and don't need any additional training. You may only need to present your experience in a different light on your résumé in order to get your foot in the door. I wish you all the best in your job search, relocation, and with your family.
Dear Sam: I am writing to ask how to develop a résumé when you have a limited professional background and a large gap of no employment due to raising up a family. I worked in administration from 1987-1992 and then started a family. During this time I did run the financial and marketing aspects of my husband's small gardening business. I also held several temporary holiday positions in retail stores, however for nearly 15 years I was raising my children. Three years ago I started my own small business alongside a part-time marketing position. Then two years ago I began a full-time degree program which I have just completed. I have no idea how to put all of this together on a resume...HELP! - Alice
Dear Alice: Congratulations on your recent graduation! I am sure this is both an exciting time and one also filled with trepidation. The key to presenting one's candidacy on paper is to paint a competitive picture. Given you only had 5 years of work experience prior to staying at home, at this juncture in your career you would likely be seen as a more junior level candidate fitting into the 3-5 years of experience bracket. Because of this you can focus your résumé on the past few years of your experience managing the administrative functions of your husband's and your own business in addition to your part-time marketing position. You can also do something called bylining your early administrative experience. To do this, write your professional experience section containing your recent experience, and at the end of that section make a note (without dates) as to your early experience. I might suggest something like: "Foundational experience in the administrative and office management arena as an Executive Assistant with ABC Company." Of course write this statement with the facts of your background. After this note you can even go on to list select aspects of that role which support your current career targets. The point of taking this approach is to allow you to include what might be relevant experience without the context of when it occurred in order to avoid unnecessarily aging your candidacy. When you do this and focus on your most recent experience and education, you will emerge a competitive junior-level candidate on paper and should have no problem securing the interviews you want.
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).