When Alex, now 52, had children, he assumed the role as ‘lead parent’ while his wife pursued her career. “I managed to find part-time contracts and consulting gigs that let me be available for our two kids, and we always made enough to get by,” Alex writes. He worked in instructional design and online learning for non-profit organizations, environmental NGOs and development groups. Alex would work 20 or 30 hours a week, but as his kids got older, he returned to full-time employment and found work with a non-profit as a knowledge services adviser. He was recently laid off during a COVID restructuring.
Since Alex has both full-time and consulting work on his resume, he’s unsure how to best position his experience on his resume. Since his layoff, he’s been able to pick up some contract work with organizations that are shifting their meetings or training work online. “Because everyone is working remotely these days, I am open to taking on remote work anywhere in Canada or even internationally,” he says.
Alex is open to both full-time employment and contract work. “I have a broad set of skills and I’m a quick learner, so I tend to work on different aspects of projects,” he says. His ideal work would involve juggling two or three projects at a time and would involve proposal writing, research, conducting assessments, designing curriculums, facilitating courses or events and evaluating results. So we reached out to career coach Dr. Jonathan Tam and Karishma Punwani, director of academic product management at the online learning and software company Maplesoft to review Alex’s resume and offer their feedback.
WHAT THE CAREER COACH SAYS
At five pages, Alex’s resume is too long. “Most employers’ eyes would glaze immediately upon picking it up,” Dr. Tam says. “If they can’t find what they want in six seconds, they’ll move your resume to the ‘no’ pile.”
Dr. Tam recommends that Alex keeps his resume to two pages, which is justified based on his 20-plus years of experience. “Alex has kept a very clear record of his past working experience, so it’s simply a matter of removing the less relevant pieces for the target job,” Dr. Tam says. Alex should focus on the last 10 years of his work, then add any roles or skills specific to the job or organization he’s applying to.
Dr. Tam also advises Alex to rename the “expertise’”section of his resume to “skills.” Then, he should ensure that each bullet point in that section is targeted toward the requirements of the job he’s applying for. Alex can also add qualitative and quantitative data to each bullet, especially numbers and stats, which will elevate his resume beyond an outline of his working history.
Some other small changes that Dr. Tam suggests are putting his e-mail address in text form instead of a hyperlink, removing the “geographic experience” section, condensing the languages he speaks to just one line and only adding a few hobbies if they’re relevant to the job posting.
As for Alex’s disjointed work history, Dr. Tam suggests that he can address this by including a short explanation in his cover letter. “Make it explicit in his cover letter at the get-go that he has a lot of diverse experiences because he was a ‘lead parent’ while his kids were young,” Dr. Tam says. “Because his kids have all grown up, he’s now looking for his next challenge in a steady, full-time position.”
WHAT THE INDUSTRY EXPERT SAYS
While Ms. Punwani agrees that Alex’s resume is too long, she does appreciate his layout of describing a skill set instead of a chronology of work. “I thought that was a brilliant way to pull together similar skills from his various work experiences,” says Ms. Punwani. Alex should reduce the “expertise” section to one or two sentences, reduce the “employment” section to the top three or five most relevant experiences for the role he’s applying for and remove the “geographic experience,” “languages” and “hobbies/interests” sections.
After editing down, Alex can also benefit from refining the content of his resume. “Paragraphs should be rewritten to focus on the result or outcome of an initiative instead of just the task,” Ms. Punwani recommends. She suggests listing outcomes such as whether groups he facilitated came to an important decision or whether clients requested repeat sessions. “It’s the outcomes that bring the story to life,” says Ms. Punwani. “More importantly, outcomes sell the reader on the possibilities of what Alex might bring to their organization.”
Ms. Punwani doesn’t believe that Alex should be concerned about gaps in his resume due to being the lead parent. “But depending on the role, he can mention this point in his covering letter or during the interview if the question comes up,” she advises.
Given Alex’s facilitation and project management skills, Ms. Punwani believes he is a strong candidate for an online learning consultant position. “He would guide an instructor through the rigorous process of converting an existing in-person course to the online world,” she explains. If this type of work interests him, Alex should look through job postings and see if there is a role that resonates with him. “He should connect with the organization and hiring manager through LinkedIn to learn more about the skill set they consider valuable,” Ms. Punwani says. Alex should also use LinkedIn to connect with professionals who have roles in the online learning space that interest him. “These individuals could guide him on the best conferences or networking events to attend.”
THE NEW RESUME
Alex has successfully cut his resume down from five pages to two and has targeted his resume toward a learning services position at a Canadian NGO. He has cut down his expertise section, which he has renamed to “skills” and reduced the number of bullet points for each “relevant experience” subheading. His education section has been reduced to just four lines of the most relevant items and the languages section has also been cut to three bullet points. He’s opted to remove his hobbies section to save more space.
INTERESTED IN HAVING YOUR RESUME REVIEWED?
Email us with your resume at email@example.com and we’ll ask a career coach and an expert in your field to provide their feedback. Names and some details are changed to protect the privacy of the persons profiled. We’re especially interested in hearing from those who have had their employment impacted by COVID-19. On the flipside, if you’re a hiring manager interested in reaching out to the person profiled, we encourage you to contact us as well.
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