By Sophie Tarnowska
Monster Contributing Writer
Gone are the Dilbert days of long-term employment, of decades spent at the same company, parking in the same spot, supplying your home office with the company Post-Its and Liquid Paper. Most of us have worked many jobs, in many industries - especially if you’re relatively new to the job market. It’s multiple job disorder, and I’ve got it in spades.
So how do you take job experience that some employers might view as unfocused, what is often referred to as job-hopping and make it into a resume that shows just how versatile and adaptable you are?
List Making: Matching Job and Skill Set
Start by writing a list of all the jobs – volunteer or not - that you’ve ever had. This may sound obvious, but I’m willing to bet that you haven’t broken each job down into word sets. Pair every job with a few words describing what you did or what skills you used to do the job. For example, let’s imagine you were the office receptionist at Snore, Bore & Catatonic Inc. You: juggled multiple responsibilities, worked as part of a team, managed client needs, and worked under pressure.
I could go on, but you already sound impressive enough to replace the head of BP.
Addressing Job Gaps
Now think about the job gaps you may have had – what did you do with your time? If you took time off to be a parent, fine. If you also managed to help out at your child’s playgroup, go through the above process again and write down the skills you used. And if like me, you took time off to be a parent and considered a successful day to be one in which you didn’t put your underwear on backwards, that’s fine too. Using category skill sets to organize your jobs instead of a timeline will avoid questions. And writing a good cover letter also helps to explain such gaps.
Pick through the positions, group those that are similar, and choose the ones that lend themselves to the job you’re applying for. Perhaps that spandex catsuit made sense at a nightclub, but you wouldn’t wear it to the supermarket. Just as you adapt your clothing choices to time and place, you adapt your resume to the job you want. Modify your resume to highlight the relevant skills for each job.
Understand the Job Requirements
Think about what your employer is looking for. Is this job about managing budgets, paying attention to detail, motivating people? Create categories with two or three keywords and use those categories to organize your resume called a combined format resume instead of following the standard present-to-past timeline. For example: Marketing Specialist; Project Management; Customer Service. This allows you to highlight your most relevant experience.
Beware: even though there are positives to almost every job, your stint as a singing Strip-o-gram employee may not be relevant in the context of your first accounting job. There are some jobs we should just forget about forever (like my experience as a recruiter for a small company in Ottawa. Within 3 days I was so bored – and this is pre-internet people – that I started writing letters to everyone I knew, just to pass the time. I get drowsy just thinking about it).
The only exception to this rule is for jobs at companies with impressive names – they may not be relevant, but they’re reassuring to a potential employer (unless you were fired, in which case, delete).
A 'Clean' Resume
Sometimes looks are everything. Make sure that your resume is “clean”. That goes further than deleting your job as a waxer on the set of some sketchy b-rated film or not spilling ketchup across the front page. It needs to attract the eye, and be easy to read. Air it out, keep spaces between each job, clear paragraphs, a simple font, choose your italics and underlining for maximum impact, but use them sparsely. These are signs of an ordered mind (though deeply misleading in my case), and make life easier for your potential employer who may be slogging through dozens of resumes.
If you are applying for a job in Canada, your resume should be no longer than two pages. Every time you add a new job to your resume, look carefully at what can be deleted or shortened in its place.
Remember that your resume is not who you are: it’s your thirty second commercial, your billboard on the highway of professional bliss and reserved parking spots. It’s real value is in making potential employers interested enough in what they read to want to meet the person behind the resume