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When Your Relevant Professional Experience is Minimal

AUTHOR: Darlene Zambruski
CATEGORY: , ,
POSTED: February 5, 2008 at 1:08 pm

by Darlene Zambruski, CPRW, SME

Whether you’re just starting out in your chosen profession or you’ve been forced to transition to another career because of the fluctuating needs of the economy, there may be times when you’re faced with having little professional experience to offer an employer. However, there are ways to maximize what you do have.

1. FOCUS ON ACADEMICS IN THE CHOSEN FIELD OR RELEVANT TRAINING:

Rather than placing education or training last, as is the case in most resumes, move that section directly beneath the Opening Summary (and before Professional Experience). Within that section, (whether you’re a recent graduate or a seasoned professional transitioning to a new career), list all coursework that is relevant to your new profession. For example, an aspiring Accountant would list tax courses, finance, bookkeeping, and computer proficiency in Quicken, Excel, and Peachtree software. If you’ve excelled academically in your chosen field, and have been granted a scholarship or won a school award, this should also be mentioned.

2. SHOWCASE ALL PREVIOUS PROFESSIONAL SKILLS THAT CAN BE TRANSITIONED TO THE NEW CAREER:

Instead of listing everything you’ve ever done in hopes of impressing a hiring manager, you should prioritize and showcase past skills that are relevant to the new career. For example, you’re a newly licensed Real Estate Agent, but your past experience has been as a Marriage and Family Counselor. What seems disparate on the surface, could very well work to your advantage. Showcase your people skills, including the ability to listen and to provide expert advice, which are all important in a sales-related career.

3. CHOOSE A RESUME FORMAT THAT WILL EMPHASIZE YOUR SKILLS, RATHER THAN WHERE YOU ATTAINED THEM OR THE LENGTH OF EXPERIENCE:

Although most employers do prefer a reverse-chronological format (that is, your most recent experience detailed first, followed by your next most recent, etc.), there are times when a functional format is best. Functional formats showcase professional skills such as negotiating contracts, dealing with unions, administering multi-million dollar budgets, etc. that may have been used in the previous career. These formats can also stress pure academic experience – in the case of an entry-level Accountant that would mean listing coursework taken or specialized training under the subheading of Accounting Skills.

4. BUILD YOUR SKILLS LIST FOR THE NEW CAREER BY STUDYING JOB POSTINGS FROM ONLINE SOURCES (HOTJOBS.COM, ETC.):

Match up any qualifications the hiring manager wants that you also have, whether you gained those skills professionally or academically. Then use those matches as proof that you have what it takes to get the job done.

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