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Too Many Jobs on Your Resume?

When Jason, a 37-year old manager, emailed his old resume to our office for professional rewriting, it was obvious at first glance that we would have our work cut out for us. Although Jason had graduated from college 16 years ago in 1991, there were a total of nine jobs on his old resume. He also mentioned to us in his email that he had "a couple more jobs" for us to add.

According to a U.S. Department of Labor study, changing jobs is common in today's workplace, "The average American worker between ages 37 and 45 in 2002 had changed jobs 10.2 times. For workers who started a new job between ages 33 and 38, a total of 39 percent reported that they changed jobs again within a year and 70 percent changed jobs again within five years."

These changes can be due to employee choices or layoffs. In fact, the data show that today's college graduates will change jobs 10-14 times during their careers and the average job will last just three to five years.

After strategically retooling Jason's resume, we were able to use effective techniques to create a document that would prove far more effective in attracting the types of job offers that he really wanted. At the same time, as a member of a professional resume writing association with strong ethical standards for professionalism, I wanted to ensure that Jason's resume was well within the bounds of accuracy and honesty.

Here are the four techniques used by professional resume writers to help clients avoid the "Jobhopper" label:

1. Consider dropping jobs that are of very short duration, seasonal, or part- time. A resume is designed to serve as a career summary or overview, not necessarily an exact recitation of each and every job a candidate has ever had.

Years ago, I coined the expression, "A resume is not a dossier." However, if removing certain jobs creates a "gap" in the timeline, it should be carefully reviewed before dropping. (Note: Since many modern resumes use only years, and not months, to document the duration of each position, dropping some shorter positions will generally not necessarily create a noticeable gap.)

2. Consider "aggregating" or combining some jobs. In Jason's case, he had several nearly identical positions on his old resume, one after the other, as assistant manager at mall-based retail stores. Even though they were for different employers and there were some slight differences in the duties, we were able to create a single assistant manager job description covering a 5-year period that listed all three employers and provided a great overview of his combined duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments.

Even though anyone can see that they were three separate jobs, the psychological effect of combining those three items into one was undeniable. Remember, employers often make split-second decisions on the desirability of a candidate based upon 10-second glances at piles of resumes.

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