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How to Deal With Varied Experience on Your Resume
Job specialization has its benefits as you increase your skills in a particular area, but a horizontal work history can also work to your advantage. If you have done different kinds of work in one or more professions, make your varied experience work for you instead of against you by emphasizing your ability to adapt.
Lead With Your Cover Letter
You might not be able to adequately address your varied work history on your resume, even if you list all of your jobs and accomplishments. Refer to the benefits of your different experiences in your cover letter as they apply to the prospective job. This helps a potential employer see how your work history makes you a good candidate for the jobs he’s offering. For example, you might write, “my experience working for a call center, as a retail clerk and as a salesperson have helped me develop significant people skills that will help me work well with your employees in the role of human resources coordinator.”
Create a Skill-Set List
At the top of your resume, rather than leading with an objective -- which tells employers what you want, rather than what you can do for them -- lead with a box that lists three to six skills you have that are relevant to the job. This allows you to demonstrate that your varied experience is an asset rather than a liability. As an alternative to a skill-set list, consider a one-sentence qualifications profile, such as, “Experienced professional with extensive people skills including customer service, sales and survey administration.”
Create a Chronological Resume
Create a standard resume that lists your work history, starting each heading with your title, company and years worked there. Under each position, emphasize accomplishments rather than duties. For example, most people know that a call center worker takes or makes phone calls. If you increased sales, helped rewrite scripts or trained new hires, list that information. Avoiding sending up any red flags that could make you look defensive, such as listing why you left your job.
Link Different Jobs
If possible, link your work at one company to another when the jobs are different. For example, if you went from being a call center employee to work as retail store clerk, add a note under your retail job such as, “Used my experience as a telephone customer support specialist to help store customers with questions, complaints and product information.” Another example might be, “Used my contacts in the call center industry to help my sales manager find a new telephony system that automated inbound sales calls more efficiently.”
Create a Functional Summary
A functional, or skills-based, resume groups your experience, regardless of the time or place. This helps you better emphasize your skill set for a potential employer. Instead of creating a second full resume, create a half-page summation of your skills an employer can read quickly and include it, along with your cover letter and resume, as part of your application.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.