Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

Career advice: ‘Retired’ just looks wrong on a résumé

job interview
Mazeo via Openclipart (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

Show More
mike macrie

Michael Macrie, VP and CIO at Land O' Lakes

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

Michael Macrie
Vice president and CIO
Company: Land O’ Lakes 

Macrie is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of Computerworld’s Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to

I have 18 years of experience in IT thanks to a career in the military. I’m retired now but very much interested in turning my experience into a civilian career. I haven’t had any luck with my job hunt so far, and my wife says I shouldn’t call myself “retired” on my résumé. Do you think she’s right, and if she is, what should I say? I would have a problem fudging my status in any way -- always figuring honesty is the best policy. Your wife is on the right track; I would agree with her recommendation to eliminate “retired” from your résumé. Despite the government’s classification of your military service, you’re not retired; you’re an unemployed civilian if you are actively looking for work. Most important, however, is that all résumés should be scrubbed of any information that could lead to any political, emotional or biased response from a reviewer. Everyone has both conscious and unconscious biases. When people have to pick two or three résumés from a stack of 200, you don’t want to be a victim of those unconscious biases. If you get an interview, you’ll always have the opportunity to provide the entire story face to face in a setting that is more honest and interactive.

I’ve been doing well working in IT for the past decade. I started on a help desk and then was in Windows support for the past few years, with ever-increasing responsibilities. Then my company went through a massive restructuring and I was out of a job (with a nice severance package, at least). As I look for a new job, I’m beginning to think my lack of a college degree is hurting me. I was in school back in the early '00s but never finished. Should I use some of my severance package to finish my degree? There is no question that competition for IT jobs has been heating up during the recovery period after the Great Recession, although IT skills demand is highly variable based on geography. If you are ambitious and are determined to continue to climb the IT ladder, finishing your degree should be a top priority in your plan. I’d also encourage you to look into opportunities with larger companies that have educational assistance programs. If you can land a job where you work and attend school at the same time, you’re not only receiving the benefit of the tuition assistance, you’re also earning income at the same time you’re receiving your degree.

I have been offered a job with a federal agency (I’m a project manager). The pay is good, but do government workers have a harder time moving back into the private sector? Government workers may be subject to unconscious biases or gross generalizations by individuals in the private sector. However, smart IT leaders understand that our government is at the forefront of the implementation of many of the latest tools and technologies through their public-private partnerships. Our government is a leader in the utilization of battlefield technologies, mapping and geospatial development, drones, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, threat assessment, networking, and communications. More specifically, in project management you will learn tools and techniques that aren’t as well adopted in the private sector, such as Earned Value Analysis, that will improve your capabilities as a project manager. Nothing could be better on your résumé than successfully completing a large government project; IT leaders understand that if you were able to successfully navigate the change management and bureaucracy of the government, you’ll have no problem taking on the political challenges within a corporation.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
Shop Tech Products at Amazon