By Taunee Besson, CMF, CareerCast.com Senior Columnist
Q: Last week I was told for the third time in the past five years that my company is being acquired. While I haven't been let go yet, I know it's only a matter of time until my department is eliminated or moved to another state. Consequently, I'm revamping my resume once more. Is there any way I can minimize my changing jobs three times in the last five years, all at small companies, and de-emphasize the recent gaps in my employment –Paul, Seattle, Wash.
A: Unfortunately Paul, downsizing has become a way of life at many companies. Stockholders demand a quick return on their investment, and cutting payroll is the fastest way to improve the bottom line in a recession. Merger and acquisitions, like the one you're experiencing now, also can lead to massive layoffs as companies seek to reduce redundancies in their workforce. Fortunately, many companies are continuing to hire for tough-to-fill positions, even in this downturn, especially in health care, sales and education. For every organization letting people go, there are others still expanding their headcount and eager to hire new employees. Employers are very aware of these trends, and it's likely they'll understand why your work history has been spotty the past few years.
However, there's no reason to display your job hopping like a red badge of courage. Focus on your achievements instead. Rather than using a chronological resume format, which emphasizes your dates of employment, consider switching to a functional or hybrid approach, which highlights your experiences compared to the opening's requirements.
First, look at the job description to determine its key functions. For instance, a training position's main activities might include needs assessment, training design, facilitation and program evaluation. Using each of these phrases as a section title, pull together your most important accomplishments from all of your previous positions and list them in order of importance under the appropriate title. A trainer might include under the heading "Training Design:"
After you've completed your functional section, which may easily fill the first page of your resume, you can include a list of your job titles, companies and dates of employment under a section called "Work History." Put the dates to the right on each line and conceal the time gaps between positions by using years only, instead of months and years.
Senior Trainer, Telecom Analytics – 2004-2006
While not every recruiter will appreciate this type of resume, it will attract the attention of the ones more interested in your achievements than your chronological work history. Those who fixate on dates will have a problem with your employment record no matter what format you use.
Senior Columnist Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979 that works with individual and corporate clients in career transition, job search, executive coaching, talent management and small business issues. She is an award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and a best-selling author of the Wall Street Journal's books on resumes and cover letters. Her articles on a variety of career issues have appeared on numerous career/job websites and trade and business journals. Ms. Besson has been quoted numerous times in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money, and a number of other websites and publications.