D: Playing the Dating game!
Dates show up in a few places on resumes, namely in the professional experience section when listing employers as well as when listing education, professional affiliations, community service, and additional training. So what is the best strategy for listing dates? Stay with me as I take you through each section.
Education: List the year of graduation only. There is no need to include both the month and year of your graduation. If you have more than one degree, list education in reverse-chronological order, with the most recent degree listed first. If it has been more than 10 years since you graduated, I recommend that you leave off graduation dates entirely and list your education information after your professional experience. Your professional experience trumps your education as far as importance is concerned and should be listed first. Remember, your resume will only receive a cursory scan the first time it is looked at and you want to have the most important information displayed first.
Professional Affiliations, Community Service, and Additional Training: Again, list dates in years in these sections and list items in reverse-chronological order. I recommend only including information for only the last 10 years. Information older than 10 years is typically no longer relevant to your current career objective, which brings up another point: for professional affiliations and additional training, only list information that supports your career objective. In other words, do not include professional affiliations or additional training that has nothing to do with your current career path. If you are still involved with an organization, you should state this by using the following format: (Year – Present), where Year represents the year that your involvement began.
If you have been involved with a professional organization for more than 10 years AND the organization is relevant to your current career objective, you should omit the dates entirely. I have a real sensitivity to making sure I do not reveal the age of my “seasoned” clients. Listing dates that are more than 20 years old will certainly do that. The key here is to be consistent, so if you omit dates for one organization, omit dates for any others that you list.
Professional Experience: Dates should of course be listed in reverse-chronological order and like in other sections, I suggest that you list dates in years only. Listing dates in years only in your professional experience section will hide any minor gaps in your employment history. For example, let’s say you worked with company “B” from February of 2000 until June of 2002 but didn’t get your next job with company “A” until January of 2003. Using months, your job history would be displayed like this:
Position Title – Company A – Jan. 2003 – Present
Position Title – Company B – February 2000 – June 2002
Immediately an employment gap is created and it is evident that you were out of work for 6 months. Using the same example, but displaying your job history in years only would look like this:
Position Title – Company A – 2003 – Present
Position Title – Company B – 2000 – 2002
Miraculously the employment gap disappears! Is this dishonest? Not at all. You are simply removing the months of employment and choosing to display dates in year only, which is an acceptable practice and resume writing strategy.
So, keep it simple and display all of your dates in years only. Not only will this save valuable space, it will smooth over any employment gaps in your job history.
On Monday, I will cover the next letter in this series, “E”, which represents ENDORSEMENTS.