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How Your Work History Affects Your Job Hunt in the New Age of Work

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Some say the resume is dying.

I say it’s not. For most jobs, you still have to present an impressive resume and cover letter to land an interview.

But the resume – and other details of the job hunt – certainly are changing. Resumes are morphing into a combination of digital identity and the traditional summary of work experience and skills. And perhaps what has changed the most is how your work history affects your job hunt.

No more climbing the corporate ladder

Traditionally, the quality career path has been defined by a history of increasingly important jobs that have led to a management role, in or around one industry.

Yet the job market that has spun off from the new economy has changed the definition of a successful career. It’s now common for young professionals to change jobs frequently, and not always because the new job offers a clear advance in the ranks. Millennials change jobs because they are recruited by a fascinating startup or have sought out a new company that has perceived potential.

The transition might even include a drop in salary, which traditionally has been treated as a black mark on your resume. No longer! Now hiring managers know that reduced salary is likely a calculated bet on the new employer or the experience and learning opportunities that the company is expected to provide.

Career track rerouted

Years ago, a work history with one employer was the gold standard for a potential new hire. Today, a work history that lays out what in your eyes was progress is a substitute for the one-stop career.

That means if you have moved from working as an affiliate rep, through two or three companies to become a marketing manager, that history can easily be defined as professional growth. And if your last employer folded, that’s not necessarily a black mark either given the history of startups over the last twenty years.

It’s all about energy

If you can sketch a work history that illustrates proactive, energetic, aggressive steps, then you’ve reached what for many employers is the tipping point. Any HR professional will tell you that they’re looking for an innovative, dynamic person to fill the empty slot, that a mere functionary won’t do.

Whether those credentials will bear up once you’re installed in your shiny new job is another matter, but the point is that you got there by showing a pattern of personal initiative, seeking opportunities with multiple firms. That oh-so-important selling point, however, requires a resume and cover letter to accompany your LinkedIn profile.

Revisiting the one-page resume rule

Defining a series of jobs and explaining the purpose for moving on takes more than a few disconnected phrases, which is about all you can fit on a one-page resume. Let’s assume for a minute that the one-page rule is applied to an online resume; that page is going to be as long as you want it to be, correct? Then it’s just a matter of writing concise sentences that provide a thorough explanation of your travelogue.

There’s no reason you can’t treat a paper resume the same way. Your goal is to get in the door for an interview, and an additional page isn’t going to cost you that opportunity. Instead, it could help you provide a more well-defined perspective on your professional history.

Bob Hartzell writes about education, business and budgets, as well as changes in collegiate goals, with focus on the new bachelors and online masters degrees. He lives in Maine, a beautiful part of New England – but you’d best bring your job with you.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • Stefaniehosford

    I hope your advice works well for many of your readers. As for me, this is pretty much the antithesis of who I am.

    I’ve spent the last two years feeling like a failure, because I’m not where I want to be. I started my Masters program August 2010, did AmeriCorps for a year at a local nonprofit, was hired into that nonprofit part time, and started a paid internship at another nonprofit to fill the rest of my time. I’m finally (hopefully) going to be moving into my first solid full time job at the organization where I currently work part time, but I still feel like a failure because it took me two years. I constantly feel like I’m behind where I should be, which is frustrating. I know I need to relax, but it’s seemingly impossible for me to do so. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • http://www.alisonelissa.com/ Alison Elissa Horner

      Congrats on the potential move to a full-time position! It sounds like you have been proactive doing a number of things to advance your career and level of experience in the past two years- Masters program, AmeriCorps, and two nonprofit positions.

      Based on what you wrote my guess is that you are spending a lot of time with thoughts like: I should be farther along. I’m falling behind. Other people are doing better than me. I’m a failure. These thoughts are likely creating feelings of inadequacy, unhappiness, and disappointment. A really useful tool is to question those thoughts and ultimately to offer your brain some new, better feeling thoughts.

      One system that I often use with clients is called ‘The Work’, a technique for questioning painful beliefs. Here’s a worksheet on it: http://www.thework.com/downloads/worksheets/facilitationguide_Eng.pdf

      Good luck and feel free to email me if you need help with it.

  • Pingback: How Your Work History Can Affect Your Job Hunt | philblair()

  • Anonymous

    As long as you did a good performance in your previous jobs then you can be sure that you get a hold of your new position in a new company. In your resume, indicate bullets to enumerate the previous jobs you have entered. Don’t worry, they’re just on paper. Now, your work history can give you that privilege to jump right into a position higher that what you have acquired, that is if you really showed good work ethics in your previous jobs. And you should be sure the letter of recommendation from your company should project your performance in the past.

  • http://twitter.com/ResumeCompanion Resume Companion

    Mr. Hartzell is quite on-target about his observations regarding the changing of work history sections on resumes. There are more and more people who have multiple, not necessarily related, work experiences. Depending on the job being applied for this can be a strong point or a weakness. Either way, a good career objective will give these “gypsy resumes” a better sense of direction.

    Also, one-pagers are still ideal, but of course, it should not be achieved by cutting out quality information that might help you land the job.

    Overall, great article!

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  • http://careerconfidential.com/ Kish Montecillo

    Great article… work history doesn’t matter long as you did well in your previous work! just look forward to what you’re getting into and do well, Peggy Mckee webinar will sure help with this kinds of stuffs.