Dear Sam: I am thinking about relocating within the state. I've been using a functional résumé due to the fact that I have quite a few employment gaps. In the past three years, I have had two children, and because my pregnancies were considered high risk, I had to stay home on bed rest. I have a bachelor's degree in business administration with a specialization in accounting and I'm finding it difficult to get my foot in the door for an entry-level position in accounting. Since I've never been in the accounting field, I've kind of lost the knowledge and training that I received in college, where I graduated in 2003. I was thinking about going through a career training organization to get step-by-step training in accounting to regain my focus, but I still don't know if I am going to go that route yet. During the time of my pregnancy and post pregnancy, I kept losing my jobs due to my high-risk situation or my children being sick all of the time because of their asthma or heart murmurs. Right now, I am a stay-at-home mom ready to go back to the workforce. What do you suggest? — S.
Dear S.: Thank you for your question. I'm sorry to hear of your situation over the past few years, and hope your little ones are now healthy and thriving. I'd likely not use a functional résumé in your situation. Functional résumés are generally disliked by the hiring community, as they present a disconnected and often confusing image of a candidate's experience. I understand why you feel this format would hide the appearance of "job-hopping" over the past few years, but I doubt it really would do that in your situation. As a recent graduate, you don't have a lot of experience to be able to use this strategy effectively. With most effective functional résumés, the work history section and dates of employment are pushed to the bottom of page two of your résumé; but in your situation, I doubt there is enough experience to warrant a two-page resume. When this happens, and the work history section is presented on page one, you really don't hide anything and the strategy becomes ineffective.
Instead of using a functional format, review the past few years of your experience and decide what needs to be presented on your résumé. You do not have to present every position you have held since graduation; only present those that were for more than a few months and those that actually support or enhance your candidacy. Additionally, never use the months of employment on your résumé. By presenting only the years of employment, you immediately minimize the appearance of having changed jobs frequently. In your situation, present your education directly under the qualifications summary, as this will still be a key qualifier in your candidacy. You may also want to develop a career highlights section that would serve as an overview of your hands-on experience. When reviewing the qualifications summary, education section with related coursework pulled out, and a solid career highlights section, hiring managers will gain a greater understanding of your qualifications before they even reach the professional experience section.
As far as returning to school to receive additional training, that certainly could strengthen your candidacy, but maybe working through an accounting temporary agency could do the same. I don't know if you have ever thought of approaching an agency, but they will have the entry-level positions you are seeking, and that will provide the hands-on experience and focus you feel you need. You may also want to call some agencies to review your existing qualifications and ask for some guidance on what they feel area employers are looking for in a candidate at your level.