It is not uncommon for adults to take pride in their personal histories and the experiences that have shaped them into who they are at this point in their lives. Our accomplishments and the goals we have attained empower us to continue our careers, try things in new and different ways and continue to grow. But do all of our past accomplishments remain relevant in a new job search, or are we holding on to yesterday a little too tightly?
If you’re presently looking for work and have been around the block a few times, there’s a good chance that your resume has some details that could probably fall by the wayside. Yet some job seekers insist on displaying functions and/or positions performed a very long time ago that are no longer relevant to their current employment objectives. To a new prospective boss, this could project a picture of career stagnation rather than one of career development and growth. Older stops along a career path might also conflict with the needs of future employer.
There is really nothing wrong with having pride in your work history and your past accomplishments! The problem lies in how job seekers list their work histories without demonstrating concrete relevance to today’s efforts. Yes, you wouldn’t be where you are today without that history, but most employers today aren’t interested in what you did a long time ago, even if the historic details are the basis for your current job search.
I believe that maintaining a full work history is important for providing perspective of how you got to where you are now. But most of the time that unabridged work history should be for your own use, and not be the document shared with employers. Yes, some of the training, positions or promotions you’ve had might help you focus on the most important aspects of your history as a reminder of what to emphasize to a prospective employer. But if the information is over ten or 15 years old, chances are that little remains worthy of staying on your resume, and the older content will hold little interest to your next employer.
Even if you’ve been working for the same company for 20 years and are seeking another internal promotion, keeping all the details of long ago doesn’t say much about what you can do now, and that should be the real focus of your current resume. Many of the historical facts that are showing grey hairs on your resume might serve you better when mentioned in an interview or in a cover letter, to briefly remind an employer/interviewer that you do have the necessary background and experience to fulfill their needs.
Not surprisingly, those with the longest careers, particularly those who have been in the same industry or with the same company a very long time, are the job seekers who hold on to yesterday the tightest. Whether out of fear of forgetting an important detail from their past, or maintaining pride in their experiences and accomplishments, there is this need to hold the reins of their past as tightly and show off too many details from their golden age.
So if you’ve got a long work history, and need to tighten-up the content of your resume, keep these things in mind:
Limit details to the last 10-15 years.
If your background includes currently relevant details that occurred over 10 years ago, briefly mention them in your cover letter or hold them for discussion in your interview.
Focus accomplishments on the skills and experiences most needed by the companies where you hope to be hired.
Try to convey that you learned something new and relevant within the last couple of years.
Demonstrate the relevance of your ongoing professional development.
Catch up on relevant industry and trade news, and maybe participate in professional online forums and chat rooms; learn about current trends and technologies that are impacting your industry and prospective employers.
Your past is important. And it does have its place in your future. But your resume needs to be about what you can do for an employer now; it’s not merely about you. Holding on to yesterday has its value in retaining an understanding of who we are and what we’ve done. Just loosen up that grip on the long-ago past and display more of the recent history that an employer needs to see. Your job search will benefit from the change in perspective.