At one time, if your CV showed that you had spent six months in marketing, another six as a paralegal and a year as a freelance graphic designer, it would have been put straight in the pile marked “other”. But now, there is less expectation that people will have settled on a permanent career early, even into their thirties. Indeed, a range of experience may well appeal to employers, if you frame it correctly. Here are some tips for making the most of a diverse employment history, and to avoid being branded a flight risk.
FIND A THREAD
If you can’t demonstrate progression through a particular company or sector, fashion a narrative which will link together your training, skills and experience, and make your covering letters more focused and compelling.
Devise a story which makes sense to you before you try it out on a potential employer, career coach Anna Ranieri told the Harvard Business Review. “Identify the themes that run through your professional life,” she advises. “This will take some concentration and reflection. In fact, it may be something that a long-time friend, colleague, or family member identifies before you do.”
The best way to hide a fractured work history on your CV is to avoid ordering it chronologically and to take a more thematic approach. “To be convincing, you’ll need to be able to show that the variety of your experience could and will bring tangible benefits to their business,” says Philip Charsley, director at Hays Financial Markets. Pull your experience together by sector, such as law, advertising or financial services, or by function – research or sales. This will allow you to hide any positions which didn’t work out, and any which aren’t relevant to the post you’re applying for. Indeed, you’re more likely to engage with the prescribed criteria on the job description, instead of producing an exhaustive list of your accomplishments, if you discover for yourself where your real strengths lie.
As Dean Bare of executive search firm Stanton Chase International told the New York Times, managers “value accomplishments that have been repeated.” If you can show that you can successfully implement a strategy across different sectors or industries, you will show your versatility, and that you can do more than just execute the same operation in the same professional context.
However, the only way you’ll be able to turn your erratic career history into a positive is if you can convince the hiring manager that such varied experience makes you more valuable than conventional candidates. “Making the transition from one industry to another must seem like a natural next step to an employer,” says Charsley. “You will need to be able to demonstrate clearly that the role you are applying for is truly the direction you would like your career to progress in.”
It is especially vital that you have researched the role thoroughly before making an application. State clearly if you have been headhunted for any of your positions, and whether any of your moves were down to redundancy, particularly if you have worked for startups, where failure is the norm.
According to career coach and CV writer Megan Fox, “job hoppers” should refer deliberately to their long-term career goals, and how this position will help them to achieve them. She told WetFeet that you should embrace the opportunity to ask questions about the company. “It will not only show them that you are taking your next career move seriously and are looking for a long-term match, but provide you better insight to make a more informed decision about the next role you choose to take.”