Dear Sam: I have two questions for you: (1) Since relocating from California—where I served many years as a DoD contractor—I have held three low-paying positions; must I include them on my resume? I ask because I assume most places want to see 10 uninterrupted years of employment. (2) I have passed beyond the two-year mark with an inactive government-issued security clearance; can it be reactivated, or will I be required to start the process again if a job presents itself? – B.H.

Dear B.H.: To answer your first question, I doubt you need to include all three more recent roles on your resume if they do not align with your professional candidacy. We only present years on a resume, so assuming you moved from California in 2016, you just need to ensure the roles you present hit 2017 and 2018. Therefore, if you held one short-term and unrelated job in 2016, but you also had your last related job in California in that year, then don’t include the short-term unrelated role as we don’t need anything covering 2016. If you present months and years of experience, then gaps will be evident; by including only years—which is a best practice in personal branding—you can strategically omit lesser-related roles or short-term jobs.

Now, just extending my advice beyond your initial question, I may also recommend using more of a combination resume approach if your most recent roles are not your most relevant. In a combination style resume, you would present your qualifications summary followed by some sort of highlights section. In this section, you can bring forward the most related aspects of your professional career, essentially moving your most recent roles to the back burner by placing them lower on the page. This helps hiring managers understand who you are as a professional and helps them evaluate your candidacy based on how you want to be seen.

To answer your second question, from my research, it looks as if your security clearance is inactive, you would indeed have to go through the process again in order to secure an active clearance. Should it have been active, you would simply regain those privileges once your employer reinstated access in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS). Even though it is currently inactive, you can still list it on your resume with the word ‘clearable’ and the expiration date of your last clearance. This will tell an employer or recruiter that you have already been cleared through the process and that you are able to do the same a second time. Additionally, the clearance process—the second time around—should not take as long as the first time.

I hope you are able to secure something more fulfilling in the near future and get back to the career it sounds like you really enjoyed. All the best.

Dear Sam: I wanted to ask how many soft skills should I list on my resume(s)? I have more than 10. Wanted to know if there is a limit as to how many someone should list. – Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: There is no steadfast number, but I would caution you to even focus on soft skills at all. Soft skills tend to be skills everyone claims they possess, so they are not as differentiating as one would expect. Sprinkle in soft skills but focus on “hard” skills that are experience based; those are differentiating as they stem from the uniqueness of YOUR experience. I’m not saying you can’t highlight that you can say communicate well, multitask, and are organized—just to name a few soft skills—but when 90%+ of your competitors are likely to claim those same strengths, they become very diluted and non-differentiating. Functional skills—those “hard” skills you have acquired based on your experience—are validated through your work history and are, therefore, much more impactful. Hope that helps.