For nearly 15 years, I focused on raising my children. During this time, I ran the financial and marketing aspects of my husband’s small gardening business, and I also worked in several retail stores on a temporary basis during the holidays. Three years ago, I started my own small business alongside a part-time marketing position. Two years ago, I began a full-time degree program, which I have just completed. I have no idea how to put all of this together in a résumé. — Rebecca
Dear Rebecca: Congratulations on your graduation. I am sure this is both an exciting time — and one also filled with trepidation.
The key to presenting one’s candidacy on paper is to paint a competitive picture. Because you only gained five years of work experience prior to staying at home with your family, at this juncture in your career, you will likely be seen as a junior-level candidate, fitting into the three-to-five-years-of-experience bracket.
I advise you to focus your résumé on the past 15 years, when you managed the administrative functions of your husband’s business and your own business, in addition to holding the part-time marketing position.
You can also byline your early administrative experience. To do this, write your professional-experience section using your recent experience; then, at the end of that section, make a note (without dates) about your early professional experience. I suggest something like this: “Foundational experience in the administrative and office-management arena as an executive assistant with ABC Company.” Of course, write this statement with the facts of your background. After this note, you can even go on to list select aspects of your earliest role that support your current career targets.
Taking this approach allows you to include what might be relevant experience without including the context of when you gained it — avoiding aging your candidacy unnecessarily. When you do this — and focus on your most-recent experience and education — you will emerge as a competitive junior-level candidate on paper and should have no problem securing the interviews you want.
— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.