Dear Sam: After 25 years with a major company that went into bankruptcy recently, I have to take early retirement. I am only 52 years old and not ready to retire. A lot of the jobs I am applying to ask for at least an associate’s degree. I was told years ago that a four-year apprenticeship program was equal to an associate’s degree. I have also had a lot of training in the past 25+ years. What is your opinion on this? I do plan on pursuing a degree, but I will need a job in the meantime. Thank you – Warren
Dear Warren: I’ve never heard of a steadfast rule that an apprenticeship equals a degree, but you could present your apprenticeship program in an education section to help the hiring manager make that same judgment. A lot of how a hiring manager will see your education and past training will be determined by how you present it, so be sure you show it as you would a degree, making a note of the program name, sponsoring organization, and possibly even some key focuses of the program. Also, use the education section to present your other training that is related to your current career objective(s). Be sure to focus on only those programs that are relevant and still current in today’s business environment. Presenting only recent and relevant content in this section will yield stronger results when a hiring manager is comparing your training to that of a degree program. Remember, though, your experience is really what makes YOU unique, not your education. Education is, for the most part, a prerequisite for the job and will rarely be THE reason you get an interview. I am confident, based on your experience, that you can overcome the lack of a degree and still conduct a successful search.
Dear Sam: I need help getting an interview for a management position outside my current field as, after 10 years, I am burned out! I want an administrative position but have had no luck, and I need to work. Help! – Ann
Dear Ann: In reviewing your resume, I can see exactly why you are not getting calls. Ann, you do not open your resume with a positioning statement or qualifications summary. By doing this, you are expecting the reviewer to “figure out” where you might fit, and this will not happen in the brief screening process. You have also created a functional resume, and in doing so, you are creating a hard-to-understand image of your background.
Functional resumes are typically disliked in the hiring community as they present a very disjointed view of a candidate’s background. Given you provide overviews of your positions underneath functional subheadings, the reader ends up not knowing where you performed which functions. Your work history section falls to page two and presents a rather extensive list back to 1978.
In addition to your resume not positioning you for anything other than what you have done in the past, it unnecessarily ages your candidacy. There would seldom be a reason to include experience back into the 1970s, especially when that experience is unrelated to your current job interests. Instead, consider only presenting the norm of 10-15 years of experience, taking the reader back to your substantial administrative experience in the 2000s.
For you, Ann, a combination resume format would be much more appropriate. This would allow you to present a strong qualifications summary focusing on your administrative skill set, lead into a career highlights section where you would state highlights of your related experience, and then flow into the professional experience section where the past 10-15 years would be fully explored in transferable language. If you take this approach, you will develop a much sharper image of your candidacy, one not based on what you have done, necessarily, but rather what you now want to do.