Have you had quite a few jobs in the past several years? Would listing the recommended 10 to 15 years of job history mean your résumé needed to be spiral-bound?
Job-hopping is becoming more acceptable in the workplace, and short-term contract gigs are very popular in certain industries. You don’t need to feel ashamed if your career has taken a path like this, but you do need to make sure your résumé and cover letter don’t feel cluttered or make it seem like you’ll be looking to exit a new job as soon as you land it.
How do you handle these short-term jobs on your résumé and cover letter in a way that will really showcase your value to a hiring manager? To learn more, we spoke with Wendi Weiner, a certified résumé writer and executive coach in Miami.
Here are her tips for handling those short-term positions on your résumé.
If you’ve been working as a contractor or freelancer for a while, it’s possible you’ve had many jobs that lasted a year or less, by design. Listing each of them out may become cumbersome on your résumé.
Weiner says this scenario is increasingly common, especially with attorneys. She recommends listing one overall position title, such as “Contract Attorney,” and then including a line underneath the job title saying “Handled contract projects for” and then listing the short-term companies where you worked. Follow that up with major accomplishments and contributions during this time period, she says.
She also suggests referring to yourself as a consultant if you’ve helped several businesses with the same type of work in a certain time frame. This helps create fewer gaps on your résumé and looks stronger in a cover letter, Weiner says. You can use this to show you’ve been doing smaller projects while job searching, she says.
Freelancer or not, you may have just had several jobs over the past few years. Is the standard reverse-chronological order the best way to format your résumé in this case?
Weiner says she likes a modified version of a reverse-chronological format. She suggests listing major achievements in the top third of the résumé so that this section is seen first, ahead of the experience section.
Focus this section on quantifiable achievements and valuable skills you possess, she says, noting that she sometimes suggests her clients include information such as “key business development or top sales success” and then follow up with factual, numerical information to back up those statements. “Increased sales by 20 percent” is a statement a new employer can understand regardless of industry and is much more specific than simply “improved sales.”
After your achievements section, you can begin your reverse-chronological experience section, without having to list duties and achievements under each position.
You may feel tempted to try to explain your job-hopping history in your cover letter. Whether you were a freelancer, left for better offers elsewhere or simply took some positions that turned out to be a bad fit, resist the urge to share that story in the cover letter, Weiner says.
Employers know your cover letter and résumé aren’t a laundry list of everything you’ve ever done, but rather “an overview of your career history with relevant career experience,” she says. Mention your relevant experience and skills in the cover letter and résumé. If the employer has concerns about your job history, let those questions arise during your interview — and be prepared with an honest explanation that does not speak negatively about any former employers, Weiner says.
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