Sue Montgomery Potrait

Prompt... Professional... Personal


Nontraditional Resume Works Best for Career Transition

Published by Sue Montgomery on

Nancy’s Transition


“Nancy” wanted to have her resume professionally written. She was about to graduate from nursing school and while she was 45 years old and had several years of work experience, it wasn’t in nursing.

Nancy had answered ads for nurses but had not received any callbacks. She thought that maybe it was her resume.

Why a Standard Resume Won’t Work

Nancy was right. Her resume was written in the traditional format: Objective, Summary of Skills, Work Experience (in reverse chronological order) and Education (in that sequence).

She listed the objective as “an entry-level position in nursing.” Followed were a number of transferrable skills that included “empathetic,” “conscientious,” “caring,” “well-organized,” and “quick learner.” Next came information about Nancy’s long career in human resources management and last was the Education section that listed the name of her school, and the title and date of her degree.

Like other people who want to make career transitions, this standard resume design won’t work for Nancy.

What is a Nontraditional Resume?

A nontraditional resume doesn’t follow the rules. It may begin with Education, have no Objective, provide no Summary of Skills and only briefly mention Work Experience. It is designed to transition you to something new rather than chronicle your career.

The nontraditional resume I prepared for Nancy began with what she learned during each practicum, discussed class projects she participated in, and even listed individual classes that were most important to the area of nursing she is pursuing.

Next came Education: Her degree title was shown before the name of the college. The areas of cardiovascular and oncology were highlighted because these were her primary interests. Her high GPA, and the facts she graduated cum laude and third in her class were listed.

Nancy’s work experience was shown but not detailed. Her resume simply provided the names of her employers and a very brief description of her accomplishments.

A Nontraditional Resume for Traditional New Grads

A nontraditional resume is also best for traditional new graduates (the 20-something group). If you just got your bachelor’s degree in accounting and while getting it worked as a server at Joe’s Pizza Palace, Charlie’s Crab Shack or Louie’s Landscaping, you have to start your resume by talking about why you are a great candidate for that entry-level accounting job you want, not with your work experience. Hint: See Nancy’s story.

Sue Montgomery PotraitSue Montgomery is founder and president of Resume Plus ( She is a professional resume writer and career coach who markets people for the jobs they want. Contact Sue directly at 937-254-5627 or email