Developing A Solid Resume With Career Puzzles

What can natural disasters teach us about careers?

As I sit here counting my blessings after surviving many snow storms and thunderstorms in the past few years.

I am always humbled when I think about how much life can change in a moment.

Sure, we have experienced bad weather and storms before, but how do you recover from monstrous disasters?

So how does any of this relate to executive careers?

Well, our career experience and work situations can also be very unpredictable; many times, our careers shift and move in directions beyond our control and away from our original plans.

Life would be wonderful if all job seekers had consistent, progressive work experience without any hiccups.

But since…but life happens, let me give you a few strategies on how to highlight your career “speed bumps” in the best light.

A) Leverage volunteer or community work experience.

Paid or unpaid, work experience is still valuable and can be leveraged for a new job. Especially if you are a career changer.

Here is an example of how unpaid marketing experience that will boost your executive resume.


Volunteer, International Dance Group Inc.


Marketing Department, International Dance Group Inc. (2002-2007)
Planned and executed advertising production, marketing materials, public relations programs and other special projects for start-up dance school. Contributed talents and expertise on unpaid basis.

  • Generated creative marketing tactics targeting potential customers and event sponsors.

B) Re-position entrepreneurial stint or experience in family-owned business

Whether you gained leadership or industry experience with large corporations, worked along side your parents in a family business or spent time running your own enterprise, all of your experience counts.

Resist the urge to use lofty titles like “President and CEO” unless you spent 15-plus years being president of your own AND other companies.

Evaluate your career track against other executives in your field to determine a comparable job title or professional level.

For example, is it appropriate to call yourself Vice President of Sales and Marketing or Director of Sales and Marketing versus President and Founder, Walter Creative Services?

C) Re-shuffle your existing work experience for a different role in new industry

If possible, keep your executive experience in chronological order, but only emphasize the relevant aspects of your work (job tasks and achievements) suitable for your target positions.

Keep in mind that it’s quite acceptable to leave out unrelated tasks or responsibilities.

For example, a senior federal employee looking to move into a human-resource management position can re-shuffle his job description to look like this:

2005-present: Assistant Special Agent in Charge

Responsible for leading drug-enforcement activities in northern Virginia. Manage all Division administration, budget allocations and various high profile programs (i.e. recruitment, training and demand reduction).

Assistant Special Agent-In-Charge, Washington, DC (2005 to present)

Direct budget allocations and oversee high-profile programs including recruitment, personnel training, demand reduction and division special projects for the Washington Division. Execute first-ever, executive mentoring and insight leadership program as outlined below:

  • Human Resource Management: Pioneered complete turnaround in office morale and division productivity by instituting year-long training in financial management and general administration.
  • Program Management: Revitalized recruitment program by assessing program effectiveness and creating increased momentum for achieving annual goals.
  • Program Development: Conceived and coordinated new leadership program to advance leadership opportunities for senior-level employees.

D) Minimize the “older” worker syndrome

Sometimes there are interesting projects, novel jobs or impressive titles from your early career that can boost your job search efforts today.

However, you avoid going to far back on your resume that you appear outdated.

Here are two ways to handle early career experience on your resume without having to list every position you had since high school:

Option A:
‘Early Company Experience’ section:

Delivered significant contributions to company’s revenue growth and production output through Manager of Engineering & Maintenance and Project Engineer positions.

Option B:
‘Early Career’ section:

Held series of executive management and leadership roles including VP, Finance/Controller for several national restaurant chains.

What career hiccups are struggling to include on your executive resume?