Resume Writing Tips for Re-Entering Workers
Even before the stock market plummeted last year, many people who had left the workforce to pursue educational and personal priorities sought re-entry to earn the extra income they needed to cope with rising fuel and food prices. As job losses soared this year, the re-entry trend has continued.
"Some reasons people are re-entering the workforce are a direct result of the recession," said author, trainer and career consultant Wendy Enelow, co-author of the book Expert Resumes for People Returning to Work. "Either retirement savings have been decimated or a spouse has lost a job."
Beyond the recession-driven reasons, Enelow said other long-standing reasons are also prompting people to return to work. "They may be bored with retirement and want to get back to working full-time or consulting in a field they enjoy," she said. "There are also always moms and dads who return to the workforce once their children are older. Some people also re-enter after completing educational programs they left their jobs to pursue. Still others return to work after elderly family members they left to care for pass away."
Whatever someone's reason for leaving the workforce, Enelow said the first step to re-entering is getting clear about a job objective.
Do you want to return to the same profession or industry? Looking for a different career?
Even if your last job was in a field that's now cutting lots of jobs, Enelow cautions against panicking. "There are so many options out there," she said. "Try not to react out of fear and take the first job offered. Take a little time to reflect so you can enter a field that fulfills you and offers a promising future as well as a paycheck."
"When exploring new career options," she said, "the Website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can be a helpful resource because BLS data forecasts careers with growth potential."
Once you decide on a career objective, it's time to write a resume that supports your goal. Does Enelow recommend a chronological or functional resume format?
"It's better to do a chronological resume whenever you can," she said. "If you've been out of work a year or less, there's no reason not to do a chronological resume. If it's been two years and you're returning to the same field, you might still opt for a chronological resume. You'll just have to be more creative about detailing what you've been doing since your last listed job."
"By the way," added Enelow, "when I say chronological,' I actually mean a combination resume,' which begins with a Summary of Skills' and/or Notable Achievements' section. What follows is a Work History' section that lists prior employers, job titles, dates of employment and job duties in reverse chronological order."
Enelow did note an exception to this formatting order. "If you just completed a degree or certificate program related to your current job objective, it can be more effective to place an Education' section featuring your new credentials right after the summary and before the Work History section. The key is following the Summary' with whatever is most supportive of the job objective."
"The objective should drive the content of the summary, too," added Enelow. "It should include skills and achievements most relevant to your objective, not necessarily all your skills."
If you're changing careers, a resume that emphasizes skills and accomplishments over chronology may be more effective," said Louise Kursmark, Enelow's co-author and president of the career services firm Your Best Impression.
For this type of format, not every detail of your background needs to be included. Kursmark suggests selecting from prior full-time, part-time and/or consulting jobs those duties and achievements most relevant to the jobs you're now pursuing. Experience and results achieved through volunteering can also be incorporated.
"It's not mandatory or necessary to indicate whether the work or projects you're listing were paid or not," noted Enelow. "Consider a re-entering mom who successfully chaired fundraisers or other special events for non-profit organizations in her community. She can showcase those experiences by highlighting the tasks she performed and results achieved. In essence, she can describe her volunteer roles much as she would those performed in a paid position."
When describing volunteer activities, Enelow offered one cautionary note: "Be careful about identifying or naming groups that might be controversial and exclude you from consideration." To avoid this problem, Enelow suggested using general terms --- such as "a national non-profit" or "a regional community outreach project" --- to describe organizations.
Still need more advice on designing a "re-entry resume"? You'll find more tips and examples in Enelow and Kursmark's book.