How to Best Utilize Past Experiences When Applying for a New Role

So you’ve changed careers. Or maybe you’ve just shifted a few times, jumping every so often into a new, but related position as your career has unfolded. Or perhaps you have a diverse set of interests and have picked up some side work, or maybe you run a flourishing business as a hobby. Maybe you’ve completed some certifications along the way, or even some extra college coursework in an area outside your field.

The result can be a resumé that looks more like a jumbled puzzle than a polished display of core strengths and experiences. What if a potential employer thinks I’m fickle? Or not committed to a certain field or area? What is my story?

A diverse career background doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Rather, it can instead be leveraged as a way to stand out as a unique candidate, and one that brings an unusual set of skills and experiences that others might not have.

Adrian Burns
Adrian Burns

Get Thematic

The key is finding a common thread that ties all of your varied work and personal experience together into a compelling story of a wide range of skills, knowledge and accomplishments. In short, identify a set of strengths that will impress, rather than confuse, a potential employer. Tell a story, your story, and have a theme.

For me, a central element of my career across all of my pursuits has been business. I worked as a business reporter at several publications around the country, moving every few years to better positions. I then ran a small business full-time for several years, and along the way added to my education and earned a professional license to add to my resumé. I then had a stint as an in-depth/investigative reporter before starting at the Columbus Chamber as Vertical Market Specialist in logistics and retail.

Tailor Your Presentation to the Job You Want

To show that I was a great fit for my current position, I stepped back and looked at the various skills and experiences I had picked up along the way, and wasn’t afraid to showcase the attributes that fit the job I was considering. Job seekers with a more traditional career path may have more depth in some areas, but could fall short on the breadth of attributes needed for a job opening. In many cases, the candidate who stands out to potential employer has a better chance than the one who blends in.

So don’t be bashful about a work history with a few changes in direction – and even a career change. Instead, take the time to shape a strong message about the core attributes that each job has shared. And also highlight the many experiences and skills you have picked up along the way – as long as they fit with the job you’re trying to get. You’ll be sure to stand out, and that may be the path to the perfect job for you and a great hire for your employer.

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