How do I know what experience to include on my resume?

Post 1 photoLet’s get to the bottom of why laundry lists should stay in the laundry room, rather than on your resume.

Have you ever seen a professional resume that listed someone’s entire work history? If you answered “yes”, you probably found yourself distracted by irrelevant employment or volunteer experience, rather than thinking about what made the person a good candidate for the specific job they are applying for.

Even if scooping ice cream, working at the University of Toronto library while completing your undergraduate degree, or dog walking are among the recent jobs you’ve had, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should be including these roles among your relevant professional experience on your resume.

One way to rule out a previous job or volunteer role is to think about the transferable skills you gained.  For example, if you were a server in the past, did you wait tables for two months while backpacking in a foreign country? Or, did you work at work at one establishment for an extended period of time, increasing your responsibility by leading shifts or locking the doors at the end of the night? The latter scenario may convey to a potential employer that you have many valuable transferable skills – such as leadership, managing others, dedication to succeeding in a job and being responsible and trustworthy – although at first glance, the basic job of being a server not directly relate to your professional career.

The key is identifying the transferable skills you have from previous roles, and highlighting them on your resume in a way that is aligned with the job or volunteer role you want.  If the skills don’t match up, get rid of a job that doesn’t relate from your resume altogether.  In other words, the roles you include should be on your resume because they demonstrate your skills and abilities, not just to fill a “laundry list” of every job you’ve had.

A last thought – you may need to get creative if removing the irrelevant experience from your resume leaves gaps in your employment timeline.  Consider adding headers into your resume that group “Relevant Experience”, which includes all work and volunteer roles that are directly related to the job in question, vs. “Other Experience”.  This type of structure can help demonstrate that you’ve been employed consistently over the years.

What tips do you have for identifying relevant work experience? Do you consider the transferable skills in previous roles, or other factors, when populating your experience on your resume? Share in the comments.

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