It would be so great if our work experience were to be a glistening straight line of continuous work, punctuated by promotions and superior accomplishments. The truth is that for most of us, life happened causing numerous career zigzags, sputters and interruptions.
In today’s economy there is little tolerance for less than perfectly aligned skills and experience. That leaves many of us pondering how to develop a resume that doesn’t get trashed instantly.
Let’s review some of the resume challenges and discuss what you should do:
Worked for the same company more than once. This does happen more than you realize. You get laid off, rehired, laid off and so on. There are two ways to address this:
- Lay out your resume in chronological order by dates you worked. Treat each entry as if it were a separate company.
- If the work for the same company had no interruptions by working for other businesses, simply group it into one entry, but be clear with your work dates.
Work Gaps. The only way to avoid a gap in your work timeline is to fill it with volunteer work or temp work. Both experiences are “resume worthy” and will show you really don’t have a gap, because you were working.
Volunteer experience. Some people think that non-salaried work should not be displayed on a resume, like it doesn’t count as “real work”. It is real work, unless what you did had no bearing on your previous career or the one you’re pursuing. If you’re a marketing professional and volunteered to do marketing, wear it proudly and put it on your resume. The fact that you weren’t paid is not as relevant as your accomplishments. Besides, non profits would pay for that work to be done if they had the budget to do so.
Temp work. Temp work is a great job-search method. The concern is that when you have multiple job assignments working for a variety of companies, how to put all of that down so it makes sense to the reader. The first thing you must realize is that you are working for the temp agency, even though your work is being done at a different business. Your business entry is made by using the temp agency and the type of work and work period. You can also outline the various companies you worked for, as well as your accomplishments under the temp agency as the business. Don’t try to create an entry for each job assignment as it will get too busy and complicated to follow.
Self employment. For the business owner reentering the work force, this always feels intimidating; but it shouldn’t be. You make an entry for your place of business as you would with any position you held for another company. List your company by name, dates and put down your work responsibility as “owner”. As a business owner you usually wear many hats, giving you even more accomplishments and skills. Hone in on those that are most relevant to the position you are pursuing. A concern that some people have with hiring a business owner is their desire to work independently. You want to show that you can work collaboratively with others and successfully with a team. Indicating that information proactively will be to your benefit.
Worked for a controversial person or cause. Whether this work is paid or unpaid, sometimes disclosing the information can create strong negative reactions. Especially in this political season, you never know where unfavorable judgment might exist. Depending on the specifics of the situation, you may want to leave the experience off your resume all together, especially if it doesn’t create a massive gap. If it does create too big of an unexplainable gap, then consider toning down the details, like using initials instead of names or using a high level description such as: Political Campaign group. You will need to give this some thought to ensure you don’t knock yourself out of the race by giving too much information.
The best approach to your resume is to think through what the hiring manager is going to see and if it tells your work story effectively. We all too often get caught up in the details of our issues. Try to think at a higher level about what you’ve done and how to lay it out as so that it makes sense to the reader and effectively sells your assets.