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 an area somewhat related to the financial industry. 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 on my resume? – Bob
Dear Bob: 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 experiences 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 simply present your content underneath functional subheadings. 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.
The second approach would be not to include the most recent five-month role at all. Given your prior employment would end in 2021, 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, so it will not be seen as misleading whatsoever. Now, if we were getting into fall or winter of 2021, that’s when I would start considering adding the current experience to minimize the gap in employment. Right now, however, if you only present years on your resume, there 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 re-engaging in your career.