How to Tell a Compelling Career Story When You’ve Done a Little Bit of Everything
3. Leave Off the Irrelevant
Not everything you’ve ever done has to go on your resume. For most people, all of your experience just won’t fit, but there’s definitely a strategy involved. If you’re applying for a client-facing position, highlight your time in retail, as a server in a restaurant, and leave off that part-time summer job where all you did was file paperwork. And if you’re going after a number-crunching marketing role, make sure to include your work assisting the psych stats professor, but maybe don’t bother with your brief stint as a copywriter.
Worried about long gaps that’ll surface on your resume if you go with this technique? Fair enough. But keep in mind that just a month or two doesn’t constitute a recognizable gap. A job gap of a year or longer may need to be explained, so if your experience is eclectic and you prefer to leave certain roles off your resume, and you can’t claim “being a student” to cover the empty period, focus on finding those continuities in the skills you’ve learned, and pull your work history together that way.
As Muse writer Elizabeth Alterman says in her piece “How to Explain the Gap in Your Resume with Ease,” “Whether you managed a household, co-chaired an event that raised much-needed funds for charity, or trekked across the globe, chances are you picked up some important skills along the way—think communicating persuasively, becoming a master organizer, or adapting to unknown situations.” Find a way to turn whatever you did in your gap period into a skill that you can use now.
4. Practice Telling Your Story
Knowing how your experiences connect to each other, and how they’ve made you grow as a professional is often the biggest hurdle. But you still have to tell a compelling story about where you’ve been and where you’re going.
Maybe your jobs are wide-ranging because you were trying to find where you fit, and you’re grateful for each of those gigs because of the skills you gained, even though they weren’t right for you. So you need to be able to convey why this position right here and now is the right one for you rather than simply the next one in a series of assorted titles.
How did all of those past experiences lead you here? How and why do you plan to build upon what you’ve done so far? Your goal is to not give a hiring manager a chance to question whether or not you’ll stick around for any period of time. It’s important with any interview not to sound negative about your past jobs, so try to relay their value while emphasizing that you’ve figured out the path you’re meant to be on.
If you can strategically explain your past experiences and how they add up to where you currently are, applying for this job in front of you, they’ll only add value to your story. Skills are skills, no matter where or how you obtained them. Once I was able to think reflectively about what I did and didn’t like about my past experiences, how they fit together, and how they showed me what path to take, my options opened up tremendously. I learned from each job I’d held that I needed to help people, be intellectually challenged, and feel like my work was making an impact in the world. Which is exactly how I feel now. I may be biased, but my winding career story sounds pretty good these days.
This piece was originally published by The Muse.