Dear Sam: I worked in the financial services field for a company that eventually shut down. I was in the middle of finishing my degree in a course of study that was somewhat related to the financial industry. To be able to pay bills and support my family while I went to school, I took a job that was not related to my experience or education. Early on, having been at this unrelated job for just a month, my resume still worked well, as it started with my related experience. Now, with three months in this position, I am forced to add it to the top of my professional experience section which not only takes away from the other strong experience, but also causes employers to ask why I didn’t pick up something that was related to what I’d been doing. How do I minimize this period on my resume? – Steve
Dear Steve: To minimize the impact of a segue from the industry, you could approach your resume in two ways. First, you could use a combination format to present your experience. This resume format would begin with a qualifications summary showcasing only related experience and education, of course not making any mention of your brief hiatus from your chosen field. Next, instead of starting the “Professional Experience” section, you would present a “Selected Highlights” section. In this section, you would explore your past experience that position you for what you want to do next in your career. Organize these either by employer or by functional skill area. If the employers you worked for were notable, you might want to organize this section by employer, meaning you would have select employers’ names presented with highlights underneath. If you decide highlighting your experiences in key areas would be better, then present your content underneath functional subheadings. Next, develop 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.
The second approach would be to not include the most recent five-month role at all. Given your prior employment would end in 2020, it is not critical that you show employment “to present.” You can easily justify this omission in an interview by explaining that you were completing your degree when your employer shut down and, in order to continue to focus on your professional development objectives, you engaged in a position that would allow for a more effective work-life-school balance until you neared graduation and reentered the financial services industry equipped with experience and a degree. This is not all that uncommon Bob so will not be seen as untoward whatsoever. Now, if we were getting into summer or fall of 2020, that’s when I would start considering adding the current experience in order to minimize the gap in employment. Right now however, if you only present years on your resume, there really isn’t a gap of any significance.
If you do present your current experience, 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 or not. I wish you the most success reengaging in your career.