Friday, June 22, 2007

Where to Put Current Education on Resume

I am a part-time student in graduate school and expect to be in school for a few more years. In the meantime, I hope to return to work after staying home to raise my kids for 7 years.

My question is where on my resume should I place my current education? Since I am looking for work in the field directly related to my current education, I'd like to highlight it. However, it seems out of place at the top of my resume above my professional experience. My previous education is listed after 17 years of work experience and I'd rather not move it from there, but the disconnect between my current and past education has me wondering.

by Wendy Gelberg, Career Coach and Resume Writer

You’re absolutely right to want to feature your current education prominently, as you’re looking for work in a related field. The rule of thumb in resume writing is that the most important information should be in the top third of the page.

One way to handle your situation is to create a section of your resume, immediately following the contact information, that provides a summary of the most important aspects of your background that qualify you for the jobs you’re targeting. That allows you to mention your ongoing education right up front.

This “Summary” section – which has many names, including Summary, Overview, Qualifications, Profile – can be a short paragraph or several bullet points that highlight what you can do for an employer. The focus is on how you can add value to the organization that hires you – for example, perhaps your work allows you to increase sales, or improve productivity, or reduce employee turnover. After you identify how you solve the business problems of the employer, you can add a phrase such as “Currently enrolled in Master of Public Health program,” or “MBA candidate at Suffolk University Business School.” That way, the information that’s most important for the prospective employer to see is in the top third of the page.

It’s not clear from your question whether your professional experience also relates to your target job and provides supporting evidence of what you state in the summary section. If so, the Experience section would be the next most important element in your resume, followed by Education, just as you have it set up now, in reverse chronological order. You would simply provide the complete details about the current program you’re in, along with the anticipated graduation date, above your earlier education.

However, if your extensive professional experience is in a completely different field, I would recommend a slightly different approach. The resume would still begin with a strong summary section, as described above, but what follows that would be whatever information best supports the claims you make in the Summary section. That might, in fact, be the Education section. Or it might be an entirely new section called something like “Selected Accomplishments” or “Relevant Experience,” and listing those achievements from anywhere in your career, education, or non-work life that combine to qualify you for your new field. The achievements may be out of order chronologically, but the most important information would be in the top third of the page. After that, you would proceed with the Experience section, chronologically, as before.

Good luck with your return to the workplace.

Wendy Gelberg, M.Ed., helps job seekers communicate effectively and confidently, in speech and in writing, to get unstuck in their job search.

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