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Alan Henry recently fielded a question from just such a part-timer in his column on Lifehacker. The reader wrote:
"I'm having trouble finding work. I've had experience after graduation in my field with several temporary jobs. One year I hit a snag and was out of work, and lately I've been taking part-time retail jobs to make ends meet. Is retail hurting my chances more than being self-employed with future employers? Should I even include my part-time job on my resume?"
The crux of this problem is about branding. The reader is afraid that including his part-time retail gigs will make him look "off-brand" for the jobs he's pursuing. The answer, therefore is some good salesmanship.
1. Highlight the positive.
"Remember to take those things you're proud of, craft them into a compelling personal story, and communicate it on your resume, in your conversations, and in your interview," Henry says. "If you have accomplishments, bonuses, achievements, and awards from those positions, include them as well. Even a strong work ethic and desire to move your career forward can speak volumes in your favor."
2. Take out anything that absolutely doesn't apply.
Although you don't want to leave big gaps on your resume, you definitely want to leave off responsibilities that don't fit into the job you're applying for. In other words, if you managed someone, and you're applying for a position where you'll be responsible for directing others' work, feel free to include that. But don't feel the need to list every single thing you did at your old job, no matter how unrelated.
3. Gloss the gaps.
If you have to leave off a job or were unemployed for a stretch, feel free to tinker with date formatting to make it less obvious, as long as you're not lying on your resume in order to do so. In other words, it's fine to list the year instead of the month and the year, but it's not fine to say you had a job in 2011 if you didn't.
The bottom line is that you're selling yourself as an employee, and that goes beyond the specific jobs and titles you held. Your ability to make connections between the job you want and the job you have may prove to be more valuable in an interview than the "right" previous job.
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