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How to include early jobs on your resume (and whether you should)

Should you list jobs on your resume that you had very early in your career? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on your age, number of years since you started working in career-level jobs, and what kind of new position that you really want.

maybe yes, maybe no listing early jobs on resume

Here is how to decide whether to include your early experience or not:

Maybe Yes – DO include your early work history, if:

maybe yes to listing early jobs on resume
  • You haven’t yet established yourself into a degree-worthy career. By including your early work history, you show that you are employable and perhaps have acquired relevant capabilities and experiences that could translate to career positions.
  • You are fresh out of school and want employers to know how hard-working you are (or were) during or soon-after college or high school. If truthful, mention how you paid your way through school or how you paid a certain percentage of your college costs. Such hard work and determination is impressive to employers.
  • The job application insists that you list every single job that you had during a certain time period. If that’s the case, list the early/irrelevant experience as briefly as possible (perhaps even combining them into one entry) and make the duties and accomplishments that you do list relevant to the job opening.
  • You want to play up select early experience because they relate better to the type of job that you want than your recent work experiences. In that case, it’s not necessary to list all of your irrelevant work experiences in between now and then. Instead, add an entry at the end of your work history like this:

Additional experience includes sales positions with XYZ, ABC and LMNOP (YEAR-YEAR), including handling [THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER DUTIES], resulting in a [NUMERIC RESULT, SUCH AS $XX SOLD, OR XX% RAISED].

If the experience was unrelated to what you want to do, just end it at the date section and if you are concerned that including the dates could age you, leave them off.

Example of how to include early experience in a relevant way.
adding college jobs to resume
If you elect to include early work experience in your resume, relay duties that you performed that are relevant to career positions, add quantifiable results and honors and accomplishments. If possible, mention if you paid all or part of your education costs by working while in school.

maybe yes to adding early jobs on resume
Maybe No – DON'T include your early work history, if:
  • You have been out of college for a long time and have been working in career positions for a while. But if you do choose to include early jobs, play up duties and accomplishments from your early jobs that relate to the job opening and keep the entry relatively brief.

In general, only include the last 15 years of your job history on your resume unless: 

  1. Your early experience could help you get the job better than your more recent experience 
  2. Your work experience at a particular company extends back more than 15 years … in that case, include your whole tenure with the company, but maximize recent job duties / accomplishments and minimize early, irrelevant jobs with the company (perhaps just listing them as a bullet point under a more recent, important position).

Make the most of your early experiences! Strategically share your early work history to further your career prospects. -- Kathy

What you can learn from your first job


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