Have you switched careers several times in the past ten years, worked several short-term positions, or been retrenched and forced to find new work? If you’ve held several different positions in the past 5-10 years, you may be sending a message to employers that you’re a job hopper, not staying in positions for very long. Hiring managers confess that if a candidate looks like a job hopper, they will automatically discard their resume, assuming that they’re either not reliable, get bored easily in positions or have been terminated by past employers. Whether employers’ perceptions are accurate or not, you don’t want to be labeled a job hopper and lose a good opportunity.
Whatever your reasons are for frequently changing positions (and there are a lot of totally legitimate reasons nowadays to choose, or circumstantially need to change jobs), you don’t want to be automatically discarded for positions you apply for. Try these helpful tips to avoid being labeled a ‘Job Hopper’ and eliminated from consideration.
Categorize your work experience differently
If you have several short-term, consulting or temporary work assignments, you may want to consider categorizing them under one heading such as “Consultant” and list the various projects you worked on and accomplishments under that, so it appears more as a whole set instead of separate assignments. You can also include two separate headings for your work experience if you’ve transitioned between industries a lot. Put “Relevant Work Experience” with the positions you’ve held that are directly related to the position you’re applying to, and “Other,” or “Additional Work Experience” below that to account for large gaps of time.
Leave out irrelevant jobs
Your resume is essentially a marketing tool to demonstrate your qualifications for a particular position or industry. If you have short-term, contract or part-time experiences that you don’t feel are relevant to the position you’re applying for, it is entirely okay to leave it out. You will, however, need to include it if a company asks for your full work experience.
De-emphasize dates of employment
If your dates of employment are choppy, you can try downplaying the dates in different ways. You can try leaving out the months of employment and only including the years, so it’s not as obvious. You can also include the dates in parenthesis after your job title, or below your achievements.
Focus on resume achievements and qualifications
Employers are mainly concerned with your success in past positions. If you can demonstrate you made significant contributions to your previous employers, even if they were short-term positions, employers will be more likely to overlook it. You can even emphasize accomplishments and skills you’ve acquired through your diverse roles, such as being a fast learner, adapting to new work environments and industry trends, and yielding high results.
Use your cover letter to briefly explain your work history, putting a positive spin on it and expressing your interest in a long-term position
If you feel like your resume screams Job Hopper, you may want to add a brief explanation for why you’ve changed jobs so frequently in your cover letter, or highlight the unique skills and perspective you’ve gained through your diverse experiences. Make sure to stay positive about your past circumstances though and try not to sound like you’re making excuses for every position you’ve left. It’s important to also express your interest in a long-term position with the company to help put employers’ fears at ease.
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Once you decide what type of field you want to go into (the more specific, the better!), there are a couple of things you can do to break into the career and get some foundational experience. Whether you take on an internship, work for smaller companies or land a job through a connection, remember that everything counts. It won’t do you any good to slack off in an internship or waste time at a summer job because it’s your dad’s company. In every position you have you should demonstrate your hard work ethic and perform your job well so that you can get a good recommendation, be eligible for promotion, or be hired on when a position does become available—it will only help you:
Student internship or volunteer during the summer, semester or upon graduating: Interning or volunteering in your field is one of the best ways to get some real experience in the career you want and boost your resume! Many companies are more willing to hire a candidate right out of college if they’ve at least had some relevant experience in the field through internships or other part-time work.
Look for smaller companies for your first full-time job: In many fields, it can be easier to land a position in the field in smaller, local companies. Depending on the size of your city or town, you may even know some of the people working in the field that interests you. It can often be easier to land a position with a smaller company in order to get the experience and expertise you need to move into a larger institution.
Think about your connections and networks: Think about your parent’s careers, an aunt that works in a bank, a friend in advertising, etc. and ask them for advice about how to get into the field. You can also ask them to let you know if they hear of any available positions within their company or in similar ones.
Take on a lower position in the field: As a student or recent grad, you may have an idea about the particular position you want in the field. Unfortunately, the positions we want sometimes require you to have experience in the field first, as well as demonstrated knowledge and skills. Think about the type of position you hope to hold, and then look at the positions under them which many people start out in and work their way up from. You may feel that the positions you’re looking at are less than glamorous and you may even feel over-qualified. But just remember, most jobs nowadays require more work experience, not just a college degree and working for a little while in a lower position can set you up for promotion in the company, or give you the experience required to apply for the positions you actually want.
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Amanda Ryan is a Program Development Associate & Senior Resume Writer at RedStarResume. Amanda is a highly skilled resume writing expert and career expert who also specialises in creating, writing and developing career content, working alongside student and graduate job seekers and developing career content for newsletters, partners and career websites.
Do you have a career related question? You can contact Amanda directly via the RedStarResume website!