Dear Sam: I am within my first five years post-undergrad. I am an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves and a civilian employee with the government. I am contemplating making a move to the civilian sector; however, my combined military service and civilian occupations span many specialties. As an officer, I have worked in logistics and public relations—in leadership roles—both stateside and in combat. As a civilian, I work in human resources and pay administration in a non-supervisory position. How and what should I include in my resume? – Laura

Dear Laura: Wow, that is quite a diverse background! First, thank you for your service to our country. Now, to answer your question. What you should include versus omit depends entirely on what you want to pursue next. Of course, you will want to include all of your positions, but you can strategically tailor the content in the way in which it best supports your candidacy today. A resume is a picture of your background written in a way in which it positions you best for what you want to do next. So, if the logistics aspects of your experience do not support your current career target(s), then you can certainly put those on the back burner or omit entirely. What I imagine will need to happen is that you will have to develop two or perhaps three versions of your resume. The first might be more operationally focused, the second in the PR and communications arena, and the third presenting your human resources skill set. You could develop one primary resume—with each area of your experience introduced with an applicable subheading—and then reprioritize content based on the target opportunity. In each resume, you would also want to build a targeted qualifications summary. This approach will allow you to present the targeted picture critical to success in today’s job market while also keeping your options as open as possible. Best of luck.

Dear Sam: My husband is just retiring from the military after more than 20 years. He has never written a resume before, and we were wondering if he should include his years of experience. If he were to put more than 20 years of aviation experience, would an employer think he was old (which he’s not) and not consider him for a position? – Debbie

Dear Debbie: Great question. First, if he were to omit all dates from his resume, then assumptions would be far worse than reality. The key would be to decide how much of his 20-year career to include. If he is pursuing more senior-level roles, then presenting 20 years might be just perfect. However, if he is pursuing roles of a more mid-level, then perhaps only dating positions held for the past 10-15 years may be more prudent. To do this without being misleading, date titles instead of tenure with the military. For instance, if he held 4 roles throughout his career, perhaps only include the last 2 or 3 to only present about 10-15 years of his career. You can always “byline” the earlier role(s) with a brief italics statement at the end of his professional experience section. This statement would state, “Additional experience with the military in foundational leadership roles” or something related to what enhances his candidacy today. The key to this byline is not to date it so that you avoid unnecessarily aging his candidacy.

However, I imagine that based on a 20-year track record of success in the aviation field, he is somewhat of a subject matter expert (SME). When you are in this position, you can present more of your career to “back up” your subject mastery. I’d probably focus less on how many years to show, and more on differentiating his candidacy through the uniqueness of his experiences, education, and critical contributions. I am confident that if he does this, his job search will be a success.