An IT security professional receives a resume makeover
Bridgitt Ann Robertson never thought she was conducting two separate careers. Her career in IT security at several enterprises and two master’s degrees led her to begin teaching college and graduate-school classes part time. In 2003, when she wanted to work from home to care for her mother, who had lost a leg to cancer, she left the corporate world and began teaching fulltime as an online instructor.
She now teaches online classes in business and information assurance, the practice of securing proprietary data and information, at four colleges. She is also finishing her own doctorate in business administration.
To Robertson, her progress made perfect sense – but on a resume it appeared as if she had lived two separate and disparate careers. That split became a problem when Robertson decided to make her next move, back to the corporate world.
With her mother now healthy and living with her in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City, Ga., Robertson wants to work again among co-workers and add travel to her job requirements. In fall 2008, she began to look for jobs in corporate training, essentially teaching the same subject she taught as a professor, but to employees in a corporate environment. But she was worried employers wouldn’t be able to relate her experience in academia to the the corporate world or understand that her earlier role in corporate IT security would equip her to teach the subject.
Her resume was a “void between theory and practice,” she said, that didn’t connect seamlessly to her goal of a career in corporate training.
Robertson turned to Ladders’ resume team to put the pieces together. “Her resume had two different elements of her career – online teaching and IT consulting – neither of which really spoke to what she wanted to do,” said Donald Burns, a certified professional resume writer who works with Ladders. “It was two separate things, nothing to tie them together, no focus on where she was going next.”
“2 + 2 = 5”
Describing multiple career tracks and aptitudes is a common resume challenge that opens many pitfalls, Burns said.
“People want to show everything they can do, or don’t want to close off one aspect of their career for another,” he said. “Or they tweak their experience so that it fits the job they’re applying for. Neither way works.”
Robertson’s first attempts at doing a resume herself listed the separate jobs she had held and a summary that tried to wrap up her qualifications in each line of work – corporate IT security and academia.
“I didn’t really know how to write about myself to make it all fit together,” she said. “I was afraid that to make it look like a fit I might miss something important or embellish something important.”
Burns turned a set of fresh eyes to the problem. “Your experience is history,” he said. “You never really want to alter that history. You can improve the presentation, but those are history.”
The answer, Burns said, is to apply a focused title and summary at the top of your resume that encompasses your entire experience and how it relates to the next step. That lets the experience and descriptions support the argument on their own.
“The title and the summary is where you make that transition,” Burns said. “The title and the summary are where you explain that the sum is greater than the parts. The job descriptions support it, but it’s where 2 + 2 = 5. ”
In Robertson’s case, the pair added a title, “Online Educator – Corporate Trainer,” that summed up her current position and her anticipated position. “It forced her to make a decision about how she wanted to present herself,” he said. “And the rest kind of just came from that.”
Burns and Robertson used the summary to tie together the sum of her career into a single experience track – training in information assurance:
Accomplished online educator and corporate trainer with extensive experience making complex topics understandable. Academic and business background in IT consulting and process analysis. Uses real-world examples and firsthand working experience to illustrate complex principles. Highly commended by students and corporate trainees for meticulous follow-up and eagerness to engage everybody in class discussions and assignments. Extensive experience improving presentation and content of online teaching programs. Competent French and Spanish. Learning Chinese.
The final version makes it clear that Robertson’s experience is not just theory.
“The thing is that the students I teach now are likely the same students I would teach in a corporation,” Robertson said. “These are not young students; they’re adults earning degrees and skills for their job, most are even there on behalf of their company.
“In a sense,” she said. “I never stopped working in the field. I am still in it and instructing those who are. I just didn’t know how to bring that out in my resume.”