How to translate your previous experience for current openings

February 3, 2010 at 2:35 am Leave a comment

Several email correspondents recently have commented on a similar problem: the most recent position they held — or a job they had in the recent past — doesn’t translate well.  In other words, employers could not easily ascertain from their job title or description the level of responsibility or specific duties they had. In one case, a news editor with real-time editing experience and some supervisory responsibility had a title that didn’t reflect that (it sounded as though he was a copy editor) and in another, a reporter was handling a range of duties in addition to the job in which she had been hired.

How does one telegraph such information to hiring editors without inflating their previous job title or experience — (which we know would be wrong as journalists especially must stick to the facts on their resume and in accompanying material)? Hiring experts say there are ways to provide information that could help you land a future job without falsifying your resume. Here are some of their tips:

*Make sure your resume is not just a chronological summary of your job titles and experience but also reflects your skills and background. One way to ensure potential employers know what you can do is by telling them — in a bullet-point summary statement atop your resume. Here is where you can describe your attributes and skills before you get to the details of your experience. And then within your specific job summaries, list the actual job functions you performed — again, in brief but detailed bullet-point fashion — so that you employers have a clear idea of the range of duties you had in any given job.

*Use your cover letter to explain any discrepancy in job title or to explain a job that may not be self-explanatory. For instance, even though my last job at CQ was called “training director,” I handled recruiting, career development and some senior management duties along with setting up training programs. In a cover letter, I explain all this, so that by the time a hiring manager gets to my resume, they have a clear sense of what I did rather than wondering what a “training director” did. If your current title is copy editor but you are seeking management-level news editing positions, be sure to explain in your cover letter the supervisory experiences you’ve had and how you have effectively managed copy and people even if your current role. The role of the cover letter is to introduce who you are and what you could do for an organization to a hiring manager — make full use of it.

*Prepare your references — and if possible, even those making initial referrals on your behalf — to be specific and descriptive in mentioning your background. Fully discuss with them your concerns that your experience may not translate well and give them some suggestions on how to handle it with potential employers. They can help you immensely, especially if they worked with you or better yet, supervised you when you had the position in question, by explaining to potential employers your true level of responsibility and the range of duties you handled.

*Be honest and proactive in these situations. Don’t wait for the hiring manager to ask you about why the title you had seems less than the duties you performed — or you may never get to the interview stage. Instead, take it upon yourself (without denigrating your former position or employer in any way, you NEVER want to do that) to mention this and have a conversational explanation about how your title and job description may not match the level of responsibility that you had. This situation isn’t all that uncommon and in addressing it head-on you can ward off potential problems.

*Yet more good hiring news — I know there has been a lot of it lately…(could hiring be contagious? let’s hope so…) Jay Heflin, a long-time tax policy reporter most recently at CQ/Roll Call, is leaving for The Hill (newspaper) in D.C. to cover — what else? — tax issues. Congratulations to Jay, and job seekers, please note, hiring for journalists, policy advocates and communications folks with Hill experience seems to be picking up!

*And as always, a variety of leads to check out for fresh D.C. area openings:

*Abt Associates in Bethesda is looking for a VP of strategic communications:

Vice President of Strategic Communications
Abt Associates – Bethesda, MD
of communications. Reviews Company communications… appropriate communication sources for communications issues. Writes various communications materials…
From Abt Associates

*Gotta love this job title — director of  knowledge products (I’m not exactly sure what that is exactly  — but I’ll bet journalists would be good at it!) for a nifty-sounding organization, Colloborative Communications Group in D.C.:

Director of Knowledge Products
Collaborative Communications Group – Washington, DC
about Collaborative Communications Group’s corporate… duties and skills for this job. Collaborative Communications is an equal opportunity, affirmative action…

*Chickasaw Nation Industries in D.C. is looking for a managing editor and anticipates an opening for an anchor:

Managing Editor / Anchor – Anticipated (Washington, DC Area)
Chickasaw Nation Industries, Inc. – Washington, DC
Job Title: Managing Editor / Anchor – Anticipated Profession: Entertainment/Journalism/Media -> Journalism The Managing Editor will help drive the…
From Jobfox

*With a hat tip to, long-time Washington Monthly editor (and founder) Charlie Peters’ non-profit D.C. group, Understanding Government, is looking for a development director:

Development Director POSTED: Feb 02
Salary: Open Location: Washington, D.C.
Employer: Understanding Government Type: Temp to Full Time – Experienced
Categories: Administration and Management, Communications and Public Relations, Marketing and Sales Preferred Education: 4 Year Degree

About Understanding Government

Understanding Government is a non-profit organization dedicated to better government through better reporting. Created in 1999 by Charles Peters, founding editor of The Washington Monthly magazine, Understanding Government believes that an effective democracy requires journalism that examines how government actually works — in the executive branch. After the think tanks have had their think, after the lobbyists have had their say, and after Congress has voted and funds have been allocated, th….more info

View all our jobs

Washington, D.C.-based non-profit is looking for a development volunteer to assist in growing the organization’s fundraising strategy with the goal of creating a full-time development job in the organization.  Organization’s mission is connected with government transparency, citizen interaction with government, and journalism about government.  Non-partisan.  Work would involve raising funds and building a development strategy for a new citizen-based website project that is already at an advanced stage, as well as for general support.  Project has been successful to date in attracting grants from philanthropic foundations and individual donors.  You would be helping move this project and the organization to the next level, and would have the potential to become a key staff member within 3-6 months with duties including development strategy and implementation, and commensurate compensation.  If you have previous experience in non-profit management or development and are looking for an interesting new project, please contact us.

*And last but certainly not least, with a hat tip to,  POLITICO has an opening for an executive assistant at its newsroom in Arlington — this could be a good opportunity for someone just starting out in journalism:

Executive Assistant
Arlington, Virginia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
March 8, 2010
Job ID: 1146840

Executive Assistant

Available: February 1, 2010

Department: POLITICO



POLITICO seeks an Executive Assistant who can perform administrative duties for executive management.


Responsibilities include fielding telephone calls, making travel and meeting arrangements, managing correspondence, filing, and receiving and directing visitors. The job also requires strong computer and internet research skills.


College degree required. This candidate must be extremely organized. The job calls for flexibility, initiative and excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to work well with top management, other staff members and outside visitors. The best candidates will have demonstrated ability to be one step ahead for employers with constant and competing demands on their time and attention. Proven ability to meet fast-paced deadlines required. Experience working in a political environment – whether in a newsroom or in a congressional office – is a plus.

To apply, please send a brief cover letter, resume and contact information for three references to, subject line “Executive assistant”.

No phone calls, please.

Happy hunting on this snowy, wintery day!



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