This morning I received this question from a reader:
I've been doing a lot of research on the internet on resume writing. I can not seem to find much information about my particular situation.I am a stay at home mom for 10 years. I have helped a little bit in a family construction business in those years. I even ran a trucking company for about 1-2 years.My true love and passion is graphic design. I want to re-enter that field as my youngest child has begun school this year. I haven't a clue where to begin. I am in a panic and very confused as to what to say in my resume or what format would work best. I've read some contradicting information on this. What is your professional opinion?
Well, there is definitely a lot of contradictory advice out there, but all I can tell you is what has worked for my clients.
First of all, be honest. You're not going to fool anyone about your history so don't try. That's why I hate functional resumes - they exist only to try and pull the wool over employers' eyes. It doesn't work so there's no point in trying.
Instead, write about your career using the principles I outline in my free resume writing course. Highlight your accomplishments and skills as best you can (in each of the positions you have held.)
But as your work history is a little different, you will need to also take a few extra steps to make sure your value is clear.
Number One: Make your goal clear in the resume title. I like to use something like 'Experienced graphic designer returning to workforce.'
Number Two: Summarize your graphic design skills and experience in a short profile upfront. (You can see resume samples here), but also stress that you offer a broader business understanding that informs your design work, and the way you work with clients. That's a key selling point that many designers lack and you should make the most of it.
Number Three: If your design experience is long ago in your history and will therefore wind up on page 2 of your resume, be sure to highlight some key design accomplishments on page 1. You can do this by creating a resume section called 'Design Highlights' right after the profile and before you get into your career history.
Number Four: Start your career history with a quick summary of the last few years so that readers immediately know why your experience stops at a certain point. Just say something short and sweet such as 'Since (year) I have been raising my children as a full-time mom.'
Number Five: Number four always applies UNLESS you have been working on design projects as a part-time consultant while also raising kids. If this is the case, present those years as work experience but note that you were working part-time while raising a family.
The key thing is not to feel panicked or concerned that you won't be able to compete. It's true that there are some jobs for which you won't be a good fit. For example, if an employer wants someone who has been working on cutting-edge design projects for the last few years, they probably won't consider you.
But that's OK because there are lots of other opportunities for which you will be perfect. For example, a family-owned business with a small staff might need a designer who can also cover for the office manager and the accountant when those two people take vacation. Your business experience would be very valuable to them. Other companies may need a mature professional who can understand the business issues of their clients. They're not going to get that with a recent graduate.
So don't be discouraged when one job isn't right for you. Don't focus on what you don't have - focus instead on what you do have. There are plenty of opportunities for you if you structure your resume effectively.