Dear Sam:

I am a 43-year-old father of two who was recently downsized from my

engineering job due to a lack of work in the field. I have a bachelor’s

degree in social sciences, but have never been able to use it as a plus

in my job search.

As I want to branch out or leave the field,

how do I update my current résumé that basically lists one type of job

with different firms? I attempted to get a career started as a

“professional” but ended up backing into the field I have been in for

nearly 16 years, almost as an afterthought. Today I worry I have too

much experience (i.e., my salary is too high and my experience is too

specialized) for the tight job market in my field, but I have no good

idea how to market myself for a position outside of it. Call it a

midlife or mid-career crisis, but I am stumped as to how to make the

next move. – Charles

Dear Charles:

I’m sorry to hear you were recently downsized, and I know how

incredibly difficult it can be at times to decipher how to market your

background, not for the jobs you’ve held, but for the jobs you want.


started by figuring out what types of positions you are interested in.

As you will need to sell your skills that are transferable to the type

of position you want, you have to know what direction you want to take.

Once you have identified the direction, print out several job postings

you are interested in. Start highlighting common skills and

requirements found in these job postings and then cross-reference those

with your background. The skills or requirements you share (i.e., those

found both in the job postings and in your own background) are the

areas in which you need to focus your résumé.

To do this, you

could highlight your transferable experience under subheadings using

the key areas you find doing the aforementioned activity. Typically, I

would place this in a “Select Highlights” section immediately following

the qualifications summary. That way, the reader sees your value and

the transferability of your skills during the screening process.

Alternatively, if the headings idea doesn’t work well, based on what

you have identified as the transferable skills, then you could just

present a strong qualifications summary positioning you for the jobs

you want, or still use a highlights section and not use subheadings if

you have difficulty categorizing the items.

In your

“Professional Experience” section, also be sure to relate the

applicability of your past to your desired future. Doing so will ensure

you engage the readers and communicate how your experience supports

their needs. Best of luck to you.

Dear Sam: I'm

an accounting professional, and the last two positions I've held ended

with a layoff. The first was due to lack of work and a downturn in the

economy, and the second was as a result of my job being eliminated. I

wasn't in these roles very long, so when people glance down to the

Professional Experience section on my résumé they see 2006-2008 and

2005-2006. Immediately, it sends up red flags that I'm a job hopper.

However, this isn't the case, as I explained above. These were

situations out of my control. Could you please advise how I should

address this so that my résumé doesn't get pitched immediately? – Scott

Dear Scott:

I actually don’t think you would be seen as a job hopper, having 1-2

years with the first employer and 2-3 years with the second employer.

Many hiring managers have, themselves, been the victim of a layoff, so

gone are the days when it is assumed you left a company on your own

accord. If you are truly worried about this, you could easily add a

brief company description under the company name and before your title.

In this description, you could say a little about the company and then

a brief mention of the reason you left. I typically advise you don’t

mention the reason you left an employer, but if this is bothering you,

then you certainly could. Here is an example: Leading manufacturer of

widgets with $50M in annual sales; underwent a restructuring in 2006,

resulting in a significant downsizing initiative. I think when you do

this, you will calm your nerves about being seen as a job hopper, yet

not focus too heavily on the reason for your departures.

Dear Sam:

I am finishing my master's degree and I am working on my résumé and

cover letter to find a new job. I have sent out tons of résumés and

have applied for quite a few jobs in the last few months, but I just

can't seem to nail down an interview. I think once I get my foot in the

door, my interview skills are good enough to get a job, but it's

getting that face time that is difficult for me. I have an idea as to

what is holding me back from getting an interview, and I wonder if you

could provide me with some direction as to how to best handle my


In 2004, I moved to the state to go to graduate school

and I had to take some temporary positions in order to have an income

while I was looking for more suitable employment. I have been in my

current position for more than a year, but it is a temporary position

and I'm not sure I will ever have the opportunity to become full-time.

How do I address this on my résumé and cover letter? Should I indicate

that it is a temporary position on the résumé or should I explain my

situation in the cover letter? I have tried both ways, but it seems

that neither has produced the results I'm looking for. I know that it

looks like I'm a job hopper but that's not the case. I have held

several temporary positions over the last 7 years, with 2 of those

positions lasting more than one year in length, but I am interested in

obtaining a permanent position in the very near future. – Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

I’d start by evaluating what positions really need to be on your

résumé. It is likely that you could combine similar positions or

completely omit those that were very short term and have little to do

with your current objective. By doing this, you will minimize the

appearance of being a “job hopper” and focus the hiring manager’s

attention on your skills, experiences, and education that qualify you

for the job you want. A lot of the time when I work with clients who

have held several temporary positions, we combine the positions to

present a more “solid” view of their experience. For example:

Agency One / Agency Two / Agency Three (2006-Present)
Administrative Assistant

throughout a portfolio of small, midsized, and large organizations to

provide diligent administrative support to a wide range of executive

and management personnel.

In addition, be sure to note in your

education section that you have worked full-time /part-time while

completing your degree program. Congratulations on your upcoming

graduate degree!