Dear Sam: I recently entered the job market following 18 years of experience with one firm. Promoted five times during my tenure, I was incredibly successful in my field but succumbed to a reorganization due to the pandemic. Fortunately, I was granted a substantial severance package and was provided outplacement services, including resume development and interview coaching. I felt like my new resume was a good presentation of my background and the value I have delivered throughout my almost 20-year career. Still, when asking for input from my family members and friends, they said they had never seen a resume like mine and thought it should look different. They also mentioned that it should all be in bullet points, one page, and void of any formatting that will create a problem for an applicant tracking system. You can imagine my surprise given I thought I was provided with professional services delivered by experts. I have attached my resume in the hopes that you can also provide input into whether my resume is solid or requires redevelopment. – John

Dear John: Your question highlights one of the biggest problems in the personal branding field. Many people who have written a handful of resumes in their lifetime believe they are an expert and their opinion trumps that of professionals that spend decades honing their craft, engaging in professional development, and following best practices. Don’t get me wrong, some services provide less than stellar end products, but that isn’t all providers. Based on the explanation your friends and family members gave you about what your resume should look like, I already know that their advice is severely outdated and does not represent today’s best practices in personal branding. The outplacement firm’s resume is an exceptionally sound presentation of your career. The best advice I could give you is to stop soliciting opinions from others when you have been provided a service delivered by an expert. I know it is tempting to ask people what they think of your resume, but you are just asking for their opinion unless they are an expert in the field. There is so much that goes into the development of a resume that some do not understand, hence they comment on what is normal to them, which is the exact reason you were granted a professional service — to develop something that is not normal so that you stand out. You would never take your car to a mechanic for service and then ask your accountant neighbor for an opinion on the mechanic’s brake job. I know that is a very simplistic anecdote, but I feel it is akin to what you are doing when you ask individuals who are not experts in personal branding for their opinion on what an expert provided to you. This expert is telling you that your resume is sound, and you should focus on your job search, knowing your brand is being represented well.

Dear Sam: I am 46 years old and looking for a job. I am working on updating my resume and was wondering how to list my education. I graduated from high school and attended college for just one year before working for a local manufacturer. I worked my way up from a line associate to an assistant manager in the Stamping Department before I was let go last year. I have more than 10 years of management experience but no college degree. How much (if any) of my education should I list on my resume? Should I put down that I attended college for one year but did not graduate or leave it off altogether? – Jay

Dear Jay: Many of my clients are in your position, and typically, I will not include an education section on their resumes. The rationale for omitting is that by presenting an education section, all you will do is point out a qualification you do not possess, thereby giving the reader a reason to screen you out. Given the first year of college is focused on general education requirements, your studies likely did not provide you with specific knowledge related to your current career targets, so omitting it is probably the most appropriate strategy. If you do find yourself applying for positions that stress the need for a high school diploma, making no mention of the need for any college, I would go ahead and present the year in college to ensure the reader understands you possess the required diploma, but only do that for positions where they may be unsure that you have a diploma unless you state it as such. I will say that I rarely find education to be the reason a candidate doesn’t get the job; you really would not believe the number of senior-level candidates I work with that do not have a degree. Focus on how your experience differentiates you, as that is the way you qualify for a position.