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Dear Sam: Keeping your options open

Samantha NolanMeet Katie

Katie came to me needing a resume for the first time in 18 years. Katie had held her last full-time role in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and had since worked part time with fundraising programs and doing substitute teaching. Katie found herself needing consistent hours and a more dependable position; hence, she reached out for resume assistance.

Career target:

Katie was interested in pursuing accounting, customer service and administrative roles. Typically, an objective that diverse would be too broad to create a targeted resume, but given the blend of experiences Katie had throughout her career, I felt we could indeed position her effectively, despite the diversity. A plan was made to leverage her three main experiences to position her for customer service, administrative and bookkeeping positions.

Resume strategy:

Katie’s last full-time role was dated (pre-1994); therefore, her candidacy could not hinge on that experience. She did, however, need to leverage that early experience in order to open certain doors in the accounting arena. To do just that, her early experience was presented in a “Foundational Experience” section with the omission of dates. This strategy allowed for focus to be placed on Katie’s experience from 2004 to present, but also added value through the presentation of related experience without the context of when it occurred. This strategy, also called bylining, is a key way for candidates to present relevant experience without unnecessarily “aging” their candidacy.

Since holding her last full-time role, Katie had mainly been involved in marketing, selling and managing school fundraising programs. Holding a customer-service title for seven years, this experience could be used to market her customer-service, client-relations and administrative capabilities. Despite this role not being full time, it was explored with the depth necessary to effectively communicate the value this added to Katie’s candidacy. Because a lot of what a hiring manager “feels” about your experience is predicated by how a candidate presents that experience on paper, giving a role some space on the page is critical in communicating that the role adds value to your candidacy.

Again, despite Katie’s substitute teaching experience being sporadic in nature, it was still explored fully in order to convey its value. Highlights were pulled out that best related to Katie’s administrative and customer-service skill set. In addition, strengths were featured that best related to the skills required of an administrative-support, customer-service or bookkeeping professional. Tying demonstrated skills to the requirements of the roles you are applying for is a very powerful way to make lesser-related roles work in your favor on your resume.

Presentation counts:

Also key to the presentation of Katie’s candidacy was the aesthetic created on paper. You will see from Katie’s resume below that despite presenting a significant amount of work history, Katie’s resume is well-balanced, has ample white space and incorporates color to provide visual breaks in the information presented. The formatting of your resume can literally make or break your search, so paying attention not only to what your resume communicates but also to how it presents that message is of vital importance.


Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to To find out more about Nolan, visit

Microsoft Word - (c) ladybug design, inc. - keeping options open

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