Dear Sam: I am an avid reader of your column and have even cut out some of your articles to save for reference! I have a question that I think may apply to many of your readers during this new situation we are all in.
Some of us may be interested in taking a job that is below our skill level to have a job and stay employed.
For example, I am a marketing coordinator, but now I need to expand my job search to include administrative assistant or temporary administrative assistant jobs. How does one who has a lot of experience tailor their message for a lower-level position?
I am qualified to do administrative work—I did it earlier in my career as I was a temp out of college and in-between earlier roles—but now I have 25 years of experience. How do I position myself to get called for those positions? — Karen
Dear Karen: Great question, and thank you for your loyal readership. To position yourself for roles akin to what you enjoyed early in your career, I would likely recommend using a Combination Resume format to highlight your most relevant experiences before your most recent.
To qualify you for your positions of interest, it is likely going to require far less experience than you possess. Hence, you will not want to present your entire 25-year career, and instead, show a more palatable picture to avoid the potential of over-qualifying you for the administrative roles you are now seeking. You can still pull forward foundational roles that occurred before your marketing career, hence the suggestion of the Combination Resume format.
To create a Combination Resume, open with a qualification summary that highlights your most related skills, no matter when they occurred in your career. Given your more recent experiences as a marketing coordinator, I know you have also demonstrated a robust administrative skillset even in your more recent positions. Be sure to focus on the most relevant aspects of your marketing coordinator journey, perhaps highlighting the administrative processes you have coordinated, the projects you have been involved in, and the organization required throughout. By reviewing job descriptions for open administrative positions, you will get a better sense of the language expected in a qualified candidate’s resume.
Following the qualification summary, you will create a Select Highlights section. In this section, which can be organized in a multitude of ways, you will focus on highlights of your career that reflect the administrative skillset you are bringing to the table. You can present these highlights in bullet points, introduce them with functional subheadings that relate to the administrative field, or even list them by employer. This section will be the focus of your resume, illustrating how you are qualified for the positions of interest. The goal of having a Select Highlights section is to allow the candidate to focus on relevant versus recent experience, allowing you to pull forward the most relevant aspects of your career while pushing your most recent experiences down on page one.
After the Select Highlights section, you will continue your resume with the traditional Professional Experience section, being sure to selectively include the most relevant aspects of your marketing coordinator career. You should explore about 8 to 10 years of your career unless, of course, you feel your specific career chronology does not allow for a seamless break in your experience around that number of years. I would hesitate to present more than about 15 years of total work history unless you are seeking a more executive administrative assistant role.
Presenting your experience in the Combination Resume format will go a long way in allowing hiring managers to understand how you are qualified for the positions of interest. What will go even further, however, would be networking to get in the door through a referral, thereby partnering your resume with an internal recommendation, a combination that will significantly help overcome the fact that you may not be the best-fit candidate. I know it seems like a hiring manager would look at your candidacy and feel they would be getting a “steal” for the price, but what will likely happen is they will see you are overqualified for the role and perhaps not a long-time hire. Having a networking contact introduce your candidacy and express your genuine interest in the position, can alleviate some of these potential concerns.
I wish you success as you transition during this challenging time, and hope you will find a position, temporary or permanent, that allows you to continue to add value to an employer and support your career and needs at this time. All the best.