Dear Sam: I worked in the financial services field with a company that ended up closing. I was also in the middle of finishing my degree in a course of study that was somewhat related to the 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 five 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 of time on my resume? – Bob
Dear Bob: To minimize the impact of a segue from the industry, use a combination resume format to present your experience. Begin your resume with a qualifications summary showcasing all of your 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, present a selected highlights section. In this section, explore your past related experience that positions you for what you want to do next in your career. Organize the bullet points in this section either by employer or by skill. 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 skill areas would be better, then simply present your content underneath functional subheadings most related to the career you had and want.
Next, present 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. 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 also want to make sure you are not presenting months of employment on your resume. If your last related position ended just 5 months ago (in early 2018), then really there isn’t a rush to include your nonrelated experience just yet as your related experience, when presented, would cover through 2018. Some prefer to include all positions for fear of a hiring manager feeling misled, but be sure you remember that the hiring community do not expect a resume to include everything you have ever done, rather that it presents a strategic image of what you have done that positions you for what you now want to do. Moreover, it would be rare to find a candidate these days that did not experience some sort of career segue, hence your hiatus will not be out of the ordinary. Additionally, hiring managers will appreciate your self-motivation to do something to support your family while navigating changes around you; that speaks to your character and how you handle unplanned events. I am confident you can paint a great picture and that your few months out of the industry will be a non-issue.