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Asked by Cindy on May 7, 2015

Hello, I returned to college as a mature (40s) student and have recently completed my undergraduate degree in history. My work experience prior to returning to college was primarily in customer service and secretarial, with a large chunk of time off to raise my children. My question is how far back in my work history should I go on my resume?

Answered by Mike, Hiring Expert at Avery Dennison Corporation, on May 8, 2015

Hello!

Congrats on completing your degree!  

I would definitely include most relevant jobs/positions held on your resume.  But, I would recommend you consider carefully how much detail you include on the positions.  For example, if 20 years back you spent a short stint as an administrative assistant, and it's not particularly relevant for the job you are applying for, I might list the position title, company, location, and dates, and that's about it.  It could even be on one line.  

One of the important things to keep in mind is that you don't really want to show large gaps in employment unless there is a reason to back up the transition.  By showing a steady stream of jobs and responsibilities, that helps close that gap.  You also want to be careful to not show too much "job hopping".  Often times employers see that as a sign that someone gets bored in a position and is always looking to change roles.  Not necessarily a good sign.

I hope this helps!  Good luck in your search!

Mike 

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Answered by Ellen, Hiring Expert at Hospira, on May 11, 2015

I would encourage you to include your earlier work history.  Your resume will include all of the work completed and you can highlight the more recent experience with detailed results.  The earlier career can be noted with less detail.  In your cover letter you can explain why you had the gap when you raised your family.  All understandable and explainable. 

Good luck! 

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Answered by Charlene, Hiring Expert at Gap Inc., on May 12, 2015

Congratulations on earning your undergraduate degree! Remember your resume is meant to intrigue a company into wanting to get to know you and wanting more information about your experience.  On the flip side it is important to include as much as possible on your resume for two reasons.  The first reason is, you want the emplolyer to see everything you have to offer, so in your cover letter or email, be sure and tie your past experiences to the position you are applying.  The second reason is by including all of your experiences you may put something on your resume, a position or company, thatt resonates with the hiring manager or the recruiter. 

If you put various positions on your resume there are two things to consider, one is to skip the dates for each position, the second is the further back you go, only put bullet points or metrics under each position that is relevant to the position you are applying.  Otherwise just listing the company and the position you held is enough for those positions that go back and are irrelevant to the position. 


The reason you would not list positions you held years ago is if you have held relevant positions and have relevannt experiences for the position and these offer very robust details you want to include.  In this case keep your resume focused on those positions and experiences and drop the other positions.


Good Luck and again, Congratulations.

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Answered by Meredith, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, on July 24, 2015

Congratulations on completing your degree!  Speaking from a staffing agency perspective, if you have the flexibility, you may want to consider a temporary or freelance position to kick start your new career.  Whether it is an assignment of a few weeks, several months or a temp to perm opportunity, you can often get your foot in the door at Fortune 500 companies that you might not have had access to on your own. 
With this in mind, I would create a more functional resume, as opposed to a chronological version. Approx 10 years back or listing relevant customer service/admin tasks is ideal.  Staffing agency recruiters are trained to glean your software skills, preferences for industries and office culture/industry ideals quickly by reviewing your resume and asking targeted questions.  It is important to register with as many agencies as you can- it is truly all in the numbers.  The more you register with, the more calls for interviews you'll get! 
Agency staffing professionals can also be a great resource and go between to help explain a gap in employment, chat salary negotiations, flexibility in schedules, highlight your skills into a position, etc.  Never pay a fee for this service- reputable firms retain fees from their clients and never pass this on to candidates.
If  there aren't any current openings that match your background, definitely keep in touch- good recruiters like to call candidates down the road and build a long lasting relationship. 
Best of luck and stay positive- you have a lot of options for your new endeavor!

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