Dear Sam: I had a career in financial services with a company that has since closed. I was also in the middle of finishing a related undergraduate degree. To pay bills and support my family while I went to school, I took a job unrelated to my experience or education. My resume worked well initially, given I didn’t feel I had to add my new irrelevant role. However, after five months in this position, I am forced to add it to my professional experience section. When presented on my resume, I feel this new role takes away from my other strong experience and causes employers to ask why I didn’t select something related to what I’d been doing. How do I minimize this period on my resume? – Bob
Dear Bob: To minimize the impact of a segue from the industry, use a combination resume format to present your experience. Begin your resume with a qualifications summary showcasing your related experience and education; of course, you do not mention your brief hiatus from your chosen field. Next, present a selected highlights section instead of starting the professional experience section. This section explores your past related experience that positions you for what you want to do next in your career. Organize the bullet points in this section either by employer or by skill. If the employers you worked for were notable, you might want to organize this section by employer, meaning you would have select company names presented with highlights underneath. If you decide highlighting your experiences in key skill areas would be better, then present your content underneath functional subheadings most related to the career you had and want.
Next, present the professional experience section. Hopefully, your highlights section will fill the remainder of page one after the qualifications summary, strategically dropping your most recent, unrelated experience to the top of page two—and, most importantly, minimizing its impact during the screening process. Try to translate the skills gained in this position to your current career target, being sure you communicate why this experience is valuable regardless of whether it was related.
I also want to ensure you are not presenting months of employment on your resume. If your last related position ended just five months ago (in 2022), there isn’t a rush to include your nonrelated experience just yet. Your prior, related experience would show through 2022, and without the presence of the month you left, most would not see a significant “gap” given we are still in 2022. Some prefer to include all positions for fear of a hiring manager feeling misled, but be sure you remember that the hiring community does not expect a resume to include everything you have ever done, but rather that it presents a strategic image of what you have done that positions you for what you now want to do. Moreover, it would be rare to find a candidate these days that did not experience some sort of career segue following the pandemic, hence your hiatus will not be out of the ordinary. Additionally, hiring managers will appreciate your self-motivation to do something to support your family while navigating changes around you; that speaks to your character and how you handle unplanned events. I am confident you can paint a great picture and that your few months out of the industry will be a non-issue.