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How to build a resumé when your work experience is varied

Wednesday, December 16, 2015 by Dana Zaruba

Many people are concerned that having a varied career and many different jobs is less valuable than having one straightforward career path. Similarly, it’s a common misconception that a variety of jobs means you haven’t found your passion.

The fact is many people have jobs, not careers. Some have had a career and now simply like to have a fun job with less responsibility. Some may have travelled, raised a family, recovered from an illness, went to school or even taken a sabbatical. It’s also possible that their passions lie outside of work and they work to live, rather than live to work. If any of the above sounds familiar, know that your work history is valid and valuable. In fact, companies need people like you. You’ve developed just the kind of traits and skills that companies require in this fast-changing, global economy.

Change your mindset

Instead of being hard on yourself, try this mindset instead:

“Because of my varied work and life experience, I am an adaptable, flexible and skilled person who hits the ground running.”

Having had several jobs could mean that you’ve experienced different workplace cultures, management styles, team structures, customers, systems, machines, deadlines and daily tasks. Wow! Think about the skills and knowledge you’ve gained by having had to pick things up quickly, adapting and organizing yourself to manage multiple simultaneous professional and personal activities. It’s these scenarios that help you develop resilience and skills that companies value.

A unique challenge of your work history, however, is connecting the dots on your resumé so that you paint a picture of a person who’s been actively engaged in work. Here’s an approach that will help you effectively tell your story to prospective employers.

Break it down

There will always be threads that join unrelated jobs or experiences. It usually comes down to three things: the tasks you had to do, the skills you used to complete those tasks and the personality traits you brought to or developed for each activity. Use this activity to document what you’ve done:

STEP 1 - Make a list of your major work and life experiences

STEP 2 - Beside each job or life experience, list the related tasks

STEP 3 - List the personality traits you brought to each task. 

Do this for each job you’ve had, each major life experience, volunteer work or even a serious hobby, such as sailing.

Here’s an example:

STEP 4 - Put it together in your resumé

Once your notes are down, you’ll likely notice some patterns and themes. To help you organize your achievements, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which tasks, skills and traits are repeated?
  • Which skills have improved the most, and which did you enjoy the most?
  • Where do I see important knowledge or experience gaps?

Make a list of recurring skills, tasks or traits and put them into your resumé under a “Highlights of Qualifications” section. Here’s what you might write based on the previous example:

HIGHLIGHT OF QUALIFICATIONS

  • 5 years’ experience researching and planning a long distance, complex sailing voyage
  • Exceptional listening, interviewing and persuasion skills in corporate and private sectors
  • Open minded, creative, friendly and skilled at developing rapport
  • Proven ability to create results on limited budgets

Moving forward with confidence and clarity

With this strategy, you can present yourself with greater confidence and clarity. Taking time to track your career achievements, experience and skills on a regular basis will also help you pay closer attention to the tasks, skills and traits you most enjoy and those you wish to develop. Remember: your ability to adapt to change demonstrates the qualities companies need in today’s world, so make it known in your new and improved resumé.   


If you're looking for services and support to get your job search started, visit a WorkBC Centre. Find your local WorkBC Centre.