Sonja Simons lost her airline-related job in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and returned to school for training in office work. She's a receptionist now, and is looking for a job where she can use both those new office skills and the customer service skills built up over the years.

"The fact that she has 20 years of solid work experience, although some of it doesn't relate to her present goal, is lost among all the listings of her former jobs," said Donna Brand, a career counselor at the Women's Center in Vienna.

"It is important to convey to a potential employer the skills one is transferring, and that can be done in a summary."

That summary, near the top of the resume, should point out her customer service and supervisory experience. It should also incorporate a description now in her cover letter: She's "resourceful, efficient, organized and experienced in handling confidential information."

Simons now highlights specific business skills under a separate heading. Brand said, "I would retain those, but pay attention to qualifications required in the positions to which she applies and emphasize those, keeping in mind that many companies use electronic scanning programs to screen resumes. If the 'buzzwords' embedded in the scan program don't appear in her resume, her resume won't make it through the initial screening."

Jobs with no bearing on the position she is seeking should be listed under "other professional experience," rather than mixed in. And now that she has attended college, she can leave out earlier education unrelated to her current goals, such as her high school diploma and her cosmetology certification.

-- Maryann Haggerty