Dear Sam: Due to the new economy, businesses are closing in record numbers. When it comes to relatively small businesses, this means not only unemployment for the employees, but the owner as well. I had my own business for 27 years and grew it slowly and steadily from $300,000 to $3 million in sales. While this sounds good, unfortunately it required my attention with every facet of the business; therefore, I consider myself good at many things, but not good enough in any one specific area to compete with candidates who have experience in the specific area of a certain job opening. Bear in mind, one of the rare issues we face as former owners is a stigma in the potential employer's mind of Can this person work for anyone, after he/she has been his/her own boss? What advice can you provide the thousands of former business owners who have become part of a group I call O.N.E. (Owner Now Employee)? - John

Dear John: Fantastic question and, unfortunately, an all-too-common situation as we have and continue to navigate through economic uncertainties. I consistently work with entrepreneurs who have been forced to close their businesses, all fearing that same situation you mentioned of an employer not understanding the value in their generalist background.

As you mentioned, there is a potential stigma surrounding a former business owner/entrepreneur. Typically, entrepreneurs are engaged by challenges and quickly move on when the challenge has been overcome; they like autonomy, they prefer to make the rules, and they have thrived in environments they have created. All of these characteristics often cause concern for the hiring manager attempting to recruit and retain talent for a long period of time.

As an entrepreneur, I believe one of the most important things you can do is figure out how to position yourself. As you mentioned, you are a generalist; you have done a little of everything, so find it difficult to compete with the specialists out there. To compete more effectively, and more successfully, you need to define your target, meaning figure out what you want to do and tailor your résumé and its content in that direction to make you look more like a specialist. Doing this will likely mean you have two and possibly more versions of your résumé. For instance, a lot of times I position entrepreneurs for business development and relationship management roles as this makes sense based on their proven success developing and retaining a client base; for an alternate target, I often position them as operations managers which is also a target which would make sense. Knowing that you have a broad skill set is a wonderful value-add to reinforce during an interview; but on your résumé, be sure you are presenting a targeted and refined image of who you are as a candidate so that you can compete against those specialists or subject matter experts (SMEs) out there.

Dear Sam: I need help getting an interview for a management/supervisory position, outside the field of Activity Director. I've worked in that field for the last 10 years and am burned out! I want a secretarial/administrative position, but have had no luck...and I need to work. Help! - Ann

Dear Ann: In reviewing your résumé, I can see exactly why you are not getting calls for administrative roles and instead are being pigeonholed into more activity director type positions. Ann, you don't open your résumé with any sort of positioning statement or qualifications summary so you are leaving the reviewer to figure out where you might fit and this just will not happen in the 4- to 7-second screening process. You have also created a functional résumé (which I understand why, given you are trying to focus the reader on your most relevant functions and not your Activity Director titles), but in doing so, you are creating a hard-to-understand image of your background.

Functional résumés are typically disliked in the hiring community as they present a very disjointed view of a candidate's background. Given you provide overviews of your positions underneath functional subheadings (in your case: Recreational Therapy Programming, Customer Service, Office Administration, Clinical Laboratory Management) the reader ends up not knowing where you performed which functions. Your work history section falls to page two (which is perfect when executing a strong functional résumé strategy) and presents a rather extensive list going back to 1968.

In addition to your résumé really not positioning you for anything other than what you have done in the past (evidenced by your first functional section titled Recreational Therapy Programming) it unnecessarily ages your candidacy. There would almost never be a reason to include experience back into the 1960s, especially when that experience is completely unrelated to your current job interests. Instead, consider only presenting the norm of 10-15 years of experience, taking the reader back to your solid administrative experience in the 1990s.

For you, Ann, a combination résumé format would be much more appropriate. This would allow you to present a strong Qualifications Summary focusing on your administrative skill set, lead into a Career Highlights section where you would state key accomplishments and responsibilities held in the administrative and customer service arenas, and then flow into the Professional Experience section where the past 10-15 years would be fully explored in terms of the transferability of those experiences to what you now want to do. If you take this approach, you will develop a much stronger image of your candidacy, one not based on what you have done, necessarily, but rather what you now want to do. Best of luck in 2011!

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 For more information about Sam's résumé writing services, visit or call either 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).