(MoneyWatch) Not everyone has a textbook-perfect career trajectory that translates into a classically organized resume. Often it contains rough patches, dead zones or other flaws in your work history, and you need to find the best way to present that information.
Recently, LearnVest published some advice for dealing with these issues. Based on my experience as a hiring manager, much of their advice is solid. What's your resume issue? Here's how to handle the most common ones.
You're new to the work force. My daughter is in this situation right now. As a new college grad, she has virtually no work experience -- and none in her intended career field -- to articulate. The solution? Structure your resume with education at the top, followed by any notable academic achievements. Then emphasize any volunteer work and academic activities that help round out your story. Finally, list your short-term job history, continuing education efforts and freelance assignments.
There's a big gap in your job history. Lots of people contend with this kind of problem, whether it's taking time off to raise kids or the result of being laid off in a soft market. Recently, I interviewed a candidate who had been out of the workforce for medical reasons for an extended period. One solution is to minimize a missing chunk like this by citing other activities -- courses you took or certificate programs you earned during the downtime, or volunteer work you did. You may want to address the issue as my recent candidate did: Be clear in the cover letter why you have a gap -- best for surgeries and other scenarios unrelated to career performance. In a worst-case scenario, avoid dates and just list the time you spent in each role, or consider going with a functional resume, which ditches dates in favor of skills lists.
You want to change roles and have no direct experience. People career-hop more than ever -- it's a sign of our ultramobile workforce. But selling yourself on paper as a media relations candidate can be challenging when your experience is in sales or technical communication. In reality, though, you probably have many (if not most) of the skills required, but you should present them appropriately. Your resume should focus on the specific skills and accomplishments that make you a solid candidate in the new role.
Photo courtesy Flickr user The Cleveland Kid