The standard resume has only a few main headers: Experience, Education, Skills, Whatever. It works because it sets everything up in a logical sequence for the reader.
But what if that sequence tells the wrong story?
If you’re hoping to change careers – or if you’ve already changed careers a couple of times – the classic resume has its limitations. And while the functional resume cured that problem for a while, most people seem turned off it these days.
Your experience can be adapted to any job – my career is proof of that. But what if you’ve had different types of jobs, some of them almost not worth mentioning?
Make your experience stand out
The functional resume used to group your experience into job types – or functions – while ignoring chronological order. So you might list recent jobs 1, 3, 5, 6, and 9, because they were all related to design, and only shove the other non-design-related jobs into a list at the bottom.
As a career change lifer, I have to be honest: I actually really like this approach. But since everyone else hates it, there’s no point in trying to sell it. Pick your battles!
But there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t take the principles of the functional resume and apply them to the chronological resume.
We’ve talked before about how to highlight the experience you want in your resumes. Well, if you really want to highlight the different things you’ve done, add some additional headers to emphasize your previous jobs.
“Project Management Experience”
“Training and Development Experience”
No, I’m not pushing the functional resume in sheep’s clothing. If the past two jobs you’ve had were both project-heavy, why not put a header above them highlighting that? If your early experience was really just learning the ropes, don’t let them dangle: call them “Administrative Experience” or even “Career Orientation.”
Sell your jobs not as individual pieces, but as building blocks for the amazing career you’ve built.
The most recent header should be the one you want
Just make sure you’re pointing the story in a certain direction. You don’t want to package your last three jobs as “Project Management Experience” when you really want to get into communications.
The most recent experience should be at least close to – if not exactly the same as – your target faculty. The easiest way to convince prospective employers of your relevant experience is to package yourself as a product they want.
To take that though even further, try as best you can to make your earlier experience fit into your “story.”
No, don’t lie. And no, don’t exaggerate your “training” experience if you let a new recruit shadow you for a day – once.
But successful leaders need to have broad sets of experience, and it wouldn’t hurt to show how you’re ticking all the right boxes.
So make sure the right experience is highlighted to get you the right job.
What if it looks like I’m hiding something?
The big complaint with the functional resume was that it was confusing. And if it was confusing, the logic went, then maybe the job seeker wanted it to be confusing for a reason.
Maybe there was something suspicious going on…
Relax. There’s no need for such worry here.
You’re not compartmentalizing things in the same way. All you’re doing is adding a few additional headers to help tell your story. It’s an addition, not a subtraction.
All of your experience is there for the world to see, in the order that you obtained it.
No gaps, no questions, no secrets.
In fact, it could be argued that you’re offering more transparency. While so many resumes are endless lists of bullets that numb the eyes (and the brains!) of the hiring manager, headers break up the visual monotony of the page, and allow the reader to digest everything more easily.
And that means they absorb everything they read – nothing gets lost.
What if it’s rejected only because it’s different?
No, there aren’t a heck of a lot of people who use these headers.
But just because aren’t doing it doesn’t mean that it’s crazy and outlandish.
This is an extremely incremental change – which hopefully makes sense, considering those two qualifiers are contradictory. ☺
This approach doesn’t entail graphics or rainbow colors or scratch ‘n’ sniff. It’s the mere addition of a few more headers that will generally be read without much notice.
But while the headlines won’t stick out as something obtrusive, they will help to shape your story and the conversation – and that’s the biggest thing you can do.
If anyone rejects your resume because that’s “out there,” well…
I doubt they would be all that open to career changers, anyways – just move on.
What if my industry is conservative?
Graphic designers’ resumes are often beautiful and exciting – what a way to grab someone’s eye! Often they’ll look very little like actual resumes: maybe they’ll look like notepads, or coffee stains, or text bubbles.
But they also lack a heck of a lot of detail that would appeal to an accountant.
Fortunately: this ain’t that.
There’s nothing revolutionary about the formatting. Certainly you should format in the most effective way possible, but for some industries, less is more.
And this approach does nothing to go against that.
Still build the resume you want, with all of the detail that you feel you need. The extra lines might push across into the next page, so yes: you might have to delete a bullet or two, or adjust the margins to keep it tight.
But it’s still your resume, with your content.
Your personality will still shine through.
If you want something new, try something different
Whether you use this approach or not, the principle is the same:
Stop trying to use old methods to sell a new career.
Experiment, be creative, and don’t stop until you get the desired result.
Marketing firms are constantly trying new campaigns to get the biggest bang for their buck. In fact, they often try different approaches at the same time.
So that they can see which is most effective.
It’s not about one and done. It’s about achieving success, no matter how much you have to keep changing your approach.
So keep trying, keep adjusting.
And keep setting those career goals higher and higher.
Have you experimented with your resume? What has worked best for you? Tell us in the comments!