Dear New Shrink,
I need your help! Like many others my industry has been hit hard by the current economic crisis. Two years ago my position was eliminated and since then I have maintained several jobs in order to pay the bills. I have secured employment through temporary agencies, referrals, and odd jobs posted on Craigslist. While I have been able to make ends meet I really want to focus on securing a full-time job that meets my personal and professional goals.
However, when I look at my work history I can’t help but think that an employer is going to turn me away because of all the short-term jobs I have held over the past few years. How do I share my diverse experiences with an employer without coming off as unfocused?
Available for Hire
Thank you for your question. Given the current job climate a number of talented professionals are turning to part-time and project based work while they search for full-time employment. However, this can sometimes lead to challenges as one tries to document his or her experience on the resume. I have a few suggestions that will help you ensure that you are putting your best foot forward.
The goal of your resume is to tell the employer that you have the skills and qualifications necessary to do the job. Review the job descriptions for positions you are planning to apply to and highlight the skills they are looking for. Common terms might be leadership, teamwork, analytical and project management. Now that you know what they are looking for you can start to think about how your background and experiences connect to their hiring objectives.
Start with your current position and think about the skills required to accomplish the tasks of your current role. As you brainstorm think about a concise, action-oriented way that you can describe that responsibility; write down bullet points not sentences. Then pick a keyword or skill category that best describes each bullet-point. You may see that each project you’ve completed requires five or six different skill areas. Continue on with the other positions you’ve held and select a skill category for each bullet.
Once you’ve gone through all of your positions and projects, look for themes. Go back to the desired skills in the job description and use this information to determine the labels you use to sort your bullet points. Categorize the bullets by theme rather than by position or date.
Listing qualifications by skill-type rather than employer or date can be a great way to show an employer that you have the skills necessary to do the job without focusing too much on when and where each of the accomplishments came from. This type of resume is considered a “functional” resume and allows you to highlight the skillsets you bring to a new employer. For a visual of what this might look like, search for “functional resume samples” online.
As you bring together all this information, focus on sharing your information in a clear and concise way. At the top of your resume continue to include your name and contact information. If your education is the top qualification needed to secure the job, put this section first. If not, it is common to move your education section to the bottom of a functional resume. The sections following will depend on your personal background and might include: a summary of qualifications, work history, and professional affiliations.
Some professionals decide to provide a “Summary of Qualifications” at the top of the resume to give an overview of their qualifications, while others will go right into their top skill category (i.e. “Leadership”). Most employers prefer to read bullet-points instead of sentences or paragraphs so aim to have each of your statements fit onto one line. List skill areas by importance to the position and bullets within each category by level of responsibility required. After you list your skill areas and bullet points include a section on “Employment History” where you list your roles, companies, and dates on separate lines followed by your “Education” section which includes degree, institution and dates each listed on a separate line.
Depending on your years of experience your final document should be one to two pages in length and no smaller than a 10-point font.
I would also encourage you to look at the positive aspects of your current situation. Managing several part-time positions or simultaneous projects takes great organizational and time management skills. Furthermore, it is a great sign that the temporary agency you’ve been working with has continued to find new projects for you. This shows a potential employer that you are trustworthy, hardworking and dependable —qualities that employers, regardless of industry, are always looking for. Good luck with your search!
KATRINA DAVY, M.A., Ed.M, is a professional career counselor who has worked in university and private settings. She holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities. Visit her online at www.kdcareer.com. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!