Q. My last 2 jobs I wore a lot of different hats. Now I want to go to a new city and find a new job. How do I present my varied experience?
A. First and foremost, be straightforward. List your jobs chronologically. Don’t be tempted by the siren call of the functional resume.
But there’s more than one way to present your accomplishments professionally. You’ll need multiple resumes, interview preps and elevator speeches – one for each hat that you’re hoping to wear in your next job.
(1) Write at least 5 success stories for every job you’ve held since entry level. If you’ve held one job for a long time, write at least 1 or 2 stories for every 2 years on the job.
An ideal success story has 3 parts: a problem, how you worked with others to address the problem, and the quantifiable outcome.
Example: “Customers complained their orders were late. I headed a team that analyzed the problem. We talked to distribution, manufacturing, and sales. We interviewed customers. We recommended a streamlined ordering system that reduced complaints from 400 in 2005 to 22 in 2006.”
(2) Identify the hats you would wear if you get each job.
As you apply for jobs, you’ll discover what each employer finds important. If you’ve handled both marketing and customer service, for instance, you may find yourself responding to both marketing jobs and customer service jobs.
(3) Rewrite your stories to focus on the new hat.
The “late order” story can be written with a customer service slant, emphasizing improved customer relations, measures of customer satisfaction and systems.
But if you’re applying for a marketing job, you would frame your story in terms of your company’s strategy. You might write about identifying a time-sensitive customer segment and meeting the needs of that segment.
And a human resource professional might talk about hiring temporary workers for the task force, revising pay grades and job descriptions for the revised system, and developing training systems.
(4) Transfer your stories to your resume and interview notes.
Your stories become the raw material for your career marketing program – what I call “claiming your bragging rights.” So make your drafts really long and include lots of details.
Of course you’ll revise your stories for your resume. And when you’re asked a question during an interview, respond with a story.
Example: “What was your toughest management challenge?”
You would respond with a story of how you pulled a team together to solve a marketing problem. If you’re interviewing for a customer service job you’d frame the challenge as marketing.
(5) Create sound bites and elevator speeches from your stories.
Interviewers are busy. Practice presenting your stories in 1-minute or 2-minute sound bites. If you catch their interest (usually a good sign!), you can always say more.
If you’re applying for a corporate job, remember that interviewers want to know if you’ll be a strong, supportive coworker. Your story calls for an ensemble cast, not a one-act play.
Finally, a lot of career change success depends on how well you click with the interviewer. If you seem like “a good fit,” your interviewer will nod appreciatively rather than get bogged down in the details of your knowledge.
If you seem like a maverick or misfit (as I so often was), you’ll feel the chasm widen as the interview continues.