Dear Sam: I have had several jobs over 10 years, including 2 in the past 2 years, and have received feedback that I have too many jobs and too many gaps in employment. If I don’t include all of my employment, it looks like I am hiding something; if I do include everything, it looks bad. What do I do? – David

Dear David: A resume is a strategic picture of what you have done, which positions you for what you now want to do. Very different from an employment application—which typically requires the disclosure of all roles—a resume affords you the ability to be somewhat selective in what you include and omit. Once you omit months in your dates with each employer, a cleaner picture will emerge. Often the omission of months allows the relatively clean exclusion of short-term and unrelated positions, not to mention near elimination of the appearance of employment gaps. For example, if you were out of work from January 2018 until December 2019 and include months and years, potential employers will see a rather large gap in employment. If you omit months of employment, you end one position in 2018 and pick up another in 2019.

While one would have to assume you ended one engagement in December and started the other in January, it at least closes the gap and removes a potential disqualifier. If you held multiple short-term and unrelated roles during that time out of your career, you could omit those from your resume without fear of retribution. Hiring managers understand that your resume is not a narrative of everything you have ever done, so don’t worry about being seen as “hiding” something. Additionally, the challenges everyone has faced in the job market since spring 2020, you certainly will not be the sole applicant with a less-than-perfect recent tenure. As I mentioned, an employment application is a very different animal, but let’s hope most of the positions you apply for are resume- and not application-driven. Best of luck.

Dear Sam: I am currently an adjunct college instructor and am seeking full-time employment in higher education. I possess a master’s degree but not a Ph.D. Should I enhance my skill set through more education? Or would it be better to amplify the skills I already possess, having taught college for 10+ years and having attended many professional development activities? – Matthew

Dear Matthew: I preface my answer by saying that you should, of course, review requirements for positions of interest to determine the prerequisite requirements for the roles. If a Ph.D. is non-negotiable, then, of course, you have your answer. I suspect, however, that it is not an actual “requirement” for the positions of interest; hence, answering your question to me.

I have to tell you; education is rarely the reason one candidate is more qualified than another. In addition, education is not often a differentiating qualification. When so many candidates—your competitors—apply for the same roles with very similar, if not identical, academic credentials, you are suddenly all on an even playing field. Therefore, how much you differentiate your candidacy is through the uniqueness of your experience.

Experience is how we are all unique. Granted, if those who you are competing against held similar roles to you in their past, and if you all explored your job description on your resume, you would, unfortunately, all look very much alike. It is the candidates, however, who take the time to dig deeper into each of their teaching roles, that will be infusing their resume with their uniqueness and differentiating their candidacy.

With more than 10 years of teaching experience, Matthew, I am confident you can position yourself as highly competitive for the teaching opportunities that do not require a doctoral-level degree. Remember, uniqueness comes from your hands-on experience, rarely your education. Best to you.