Showcasing Your Professional Experience
Alright, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and dig into the good stuff – showcasing your professional experience. I’m here to guide you through the art of presenting your work history in a way that commands employers’ attention.
And remember, we’re not just talking about traditional jobs here. Your volunteer work and side hustles count, too – they’re all part of your experience.
I’ll also guide you through organizing this section smartly; then, the spotlight shifts to your accomplishments. Let’s make those achievements pop, proving your real-world impact to potential employers.
What is Considered Professional Experience
Professional work experience doesn’t mean “paid” work only! It encompasses a wide range of activities that contribute to your skillset, knowledge, and achievements.
Traditionally, professional experience refers to the work history gained through full-time or part-time employment with a company or organization.
However, with the rise of the gig economy and entrepreneurial pursuits, our side hustles have become increasingly relevant. They can also be valuable additions to your resume–whether they are profitable endeavors or not.
Not to mention the diverse range of experiences and transferable skills you gain from volunteering, internships, and completing other unpaid projects.
So don’t sell yourself short! Include everything that’s relevant!
Here’s how to maximize the potential of your various professional experiences:
Your potential new boss craves a proven track record of excellence. It doesn’t matter if you worked full-time, part-time, or on a contract; these experiences have sculpted your skills, defined your responsibilities, and helped you achieve various accomplishments.
Use your traditional employment history to show your career growth and your ability to thrive in team structures under supervision.
Even if these jobs aren’t related to the one you’re applying for, your work history shows you have successfully navigated different work environments and responsibilities. Be selective, though, and don’t list every summer and part-time job you’ve had since you were 16.
As a general rule, focus on the most recent decade of your work history – this helps keep your resume streamlined and highlights your recent accomplishments.
Internships and Co-op Programs
Internships and cooperative education programs provide valuable hands-on experience in a specific industry or field. These opportunities allow you to apply classroom knowledge to real-world situations, gain industry insights, and develop practical skills.
Treat internships and co-op programs as professional experiences and highlight the projects, tasks, and skills you have acquired. It will leave employers in awe of your practical expertise and ability to seamlessly transition from the classroom to the boardroom.
Don’t underestimate the value of volunteer work, especially if it aligns with your field or career aspirations. Let your resume reflect your genuine passion for giving back and your ability to contribute selflessly to a greater cause.
Highlight the specific tasks, responsibilities, and outcomes of your volunteer work, focusing on transferable skills and achievements. This demonstrates your commitment, dedication, and ability to contribute to society for reasons other than money.
Research Projects and Academic Achievements
If you’ve participated in research projects or earned academic recognition, such as scholarships or awards, it’s worth adding these experiences to your professional history.
Describe the specifics of the projects – what they entailed, the methods you employed, and the outcomes you achieved. These academic achievements spice up your professional story and give it an extra kick.
Freelancing and Consulting
Freelancing and consulting engagements can be valuable additions to your professional experience. These roles demonstrate your ability to work independently, find clients, and maintain an impressive track record of delivering exceptional results.
Highlight the specific services you provided, drop some names of prestigious clients you collaborated with, and share the remarkable outcomes you achieved. Employers will love knowing you can take initiative and don’t need a manager constantly looking over your shoulder to get your work done.
Side hustles often involve taking on multiple roles and responsibilities, allowing you to develop a diverse set of skills.
Identify and articulate the transferable skills gained from your side hustles that are relevant to the job you are applying for. These skills may include project management, problem-solving, customer service, communication, time management, or marketing.
Treat your side hustles as you would any other professional experience and highlight the skills, responsibilities, and achievements gained from these pursuits. Emphasize how your side hustles demonstrate your entrepreneurial spirit, initiative, and ability to juggle multiple responsibilities.
Remember, professional experience does not only mean paid experience. So consider the various types of experiences you’ve had, from traditional employment and gig jobs to internships and volunteer work.
- What’s shaped your career? List every single job or professional endeavor you’ve had, no matter how insignificant they may seem. You want a complete and thorough master list to work with.
- As best you can, include position titles, company information, location, and employment dates for each position. Don’t get too bogged down in finding the specific details at this stage, but try to list them so you can see your progression.
- For each, write down the skills, responsibilities, and achievements you acquired or accomplished. What challenges did you conquer (both big and small)? How did you grow? Again, don’t worry about being perfect—just write down what you did.
- What professional and honest explanation can you provide if you have employment gaps? What relevant activities did you pursue during those periods?
Organizing Your Experience Section
Now that we’ve uncovered your impressive experience, let’s focus on structuring this section. This part of your resume shines a spotlight on your professional background, which employers value highly.
When you organize your work history effectively, you’re crafting a clear and engaging story of your career path. It’s about putting the right pieces in the right places. So, let’s give this section the attention it deserves!
Reverse Chronological Order
The most common and preferred approach for organizing your work experience section is to use reverse chronological order. This means listing your most recent or current job first, followed by previous positions in descending order. This format lets employers see your recent experience and quickly track your career growth.
I’ve honestly never seen a successful resume that didn’t use reverse chronological order. Deviating from it makes it look like you’re hiding something, even if you’re not.
Job Titles and Company Information
Begin each work experience entry with the job title, followed by the company or organization name, location, and employment dates. Provide enough detail for employers to understand the context of your roles and the industries you have worked in.
Unless you’ve worked somewhere very prestigious or cool, your job title should be more prominent than the company name. Emphasizing that you worked at Walmart only tells employers a little about you; your job title holds all the power.
Key Responsibilities and Achievements
Under each work experience entry, provide a concise overview of your key responsibilities and accomplishments. Focus on the most relevant and impactful aspects of your role.
Use bullet points to make it easy for employers to scan and identify the main highlights. Start each bullet point with a strong action verb and quantify your achievements whenever possible to demonstrate the impact you had in your previous roles. (This is covered in the next part of this lesson.)
Aligning with the Job Description
Like everything on your resume, be mindful of the job description and requirements of the position you are applying for and customize accordingly. Rearrange and emphasize certain responsibilities and achievements to showcase your suitability for the specific role and put the best ones first.
You don’t necessarily have to exclude roles that are not directly related; they can still provide context and establish your work ethic.
You could create two experience sections.
Title the first section, “Relevant Experience” (or similar), where you highlight the roles directly related to your target job. Emphasize the tasks you performed, the responsibilities you handled, and the notable accomplishments you achieved in those roles. Put this near the top of your resume.
Then include a second, separate section called “Additional Experience” to show the other roles you’ve held at the bottom of your resume, or perhaps on the second page.
This allows you to demonstrate a diverse background and establish a work history. Even if these positions don’t align with your current career path, they can still contribute to your overall skill set and showcase your adaptability and versatility as a professional. It can also show you’ve had a steady work history, even if you moved around.
Example: How to Include Relevant and Additional Experience
Electrical Supervisor, ABC Electrical Services, Anytown, USA
May 2018 – Present
- Supervised a team of electricians in the successful completion of various commercial and residential electrical projects.
- Demonstrated leadership by effectively coordinating workflow, managing resources, and ensuring compliance with safety standards.
- Collaborated with project managers to plan and execute electrical installations, leading to increased client satisfaction and on-time project delivery.
Journeyman Electrician, Herman Electrical Solutions, Cityville, USA
August 2015 – April 2018
- Executed electrical installations and repairs in residential and commercial settings, consistently meeting quality and safety standards.
- Trained and mentored apprentice electricians, contributing to the development of a skilled and efficient workforce.
- Conducted regular inspections and troubleshooting, identifying and resolving electrical issues to ensure optimal system performance.
Car Stereo Installation Technician, AudioTech Solutions, Summer City, USA
June 2014 – July 2015
- Installed car stereos and audio systems, showcasing technical proficiency and attention to detail.
- Provided excellent customer service by addressing client preferences and ensuring satisfaction with the installed systems.
Maintenance Technician, City Commercial Complex, Urbanville, USA
May 2013 – August 2013
- Performed routine maintenance tasks, including electrical repairs, in a large commercial building.
- Collaborated with the maintenance team to address various facility issues promptly and efficiently.
Grouping Similar Experiences
If you have held multiple positions within the same company or have had similar roles in different organizations, consider grouping them together. This allows you to demonstrate your growth and progression within a specific field or industry without being repetitive.
Provide a clear overview of your role transitions and highlight any promotions or increased responsibilities. Make it easy to understand that you moved up and not just laterally—even if you only moved up a little.
Example: How to Show a Promotion on a Resume
Marketing Manager/Marketing Specialist | ABC Corporation | 2017 – Present
- Marketing Manager (April 2019 – Present)
- Led a team of 3 marketing specialists and supervised all marketing initiatives, including strategic planning, campaign execution, and budget management.
- Developed and implemented a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, resulting in a 40% increase in website traffic and a 25% growth in online sales.
- Collaborated with cross-functional teams to launch successful product campaigns and increase brand visibility.
- Marketing Specialist (January 2017 – April 2019)
- Managed social media accounts and created engaging content, leading to a 50% growth in social media followers and a 20% increase in engagement.
- Conducted market research and competitor analysis to identify new opportunities and develop targeted marketing campaigns.
- Assisted in organizing and executing industry events and trade shows, enhancing brand awareness and generating new leads.
Example: How to List Similar Roles on a Resume
Administrative Associate – ABC Inc. [2014 – 2017] and DEF Industries [2017 – Present]
- Managed executive calendars, scheduling appointments and meetings, resulting in improved efficiency and timely coordination.
- Assisted in preparing reports, presentations, and correspondence, ensuring accuracy and adherence to company standards.
- Welcomed and directed visitors, providing exceptional customer service and creating a positive first impression of the company.
- Coordinated incoming calls and messages, efficiently routing inquiries to appropriate departments and resolving customer issues promptly.
Conciseness and Clarity
Be concise and clear when describing your work experience. Use action-oriented language and avoid excessive jargon. Your resume has limited space, so don’t fill it with fluff.
Focus on the outcomes and impact you achieved in each role. Keep the descriptions brief and to the point, highlighting the most relevant information for each position.
Addressing Employment Gaps
If you have gaps in your employment history, be prepared to address them professionally and honestly. Consider using a functional resume format or including a brief explanation for significant gaps. Include any relevant activities, such as volunteer work, freelance projects, or professional development, that you pursued during those periods.
Your cover letter is another good opportunity to explain employment gaps. You can provide some context in your own words that will answer the employer’s questions about your situation.
For example, if you spent the last couple of years raising your child or taking care of a loved one, say that. Employers understand that sometimes life takes precedence.
Highlighting Accomplishments and Results
Employers are not just interested in knowing your job responsibilities; they want to see your impact in your previous roles.
By effectively showcasing your accomplishments and results, you can differentiate yourself from other candidates and demonstrate your value to potential employers.
What Are Accomplishments?
Accomplishments are tangible outcomes, achievements, or contributions that you made. They can include exceeding targets, solving complex problems, improving processes, receiving awards or recognition, generating revenue, or leading successful projects.
Identify Your Accomplishments
Some jobs have easily identifiable accomplishments, such as sales roles with clear revenue figures or management positions with specific project outcomes.
However, accomplishments can be found in every role. Think about the impact you had in your previous positions and identify the results or positive changes you brought about.
For example, if you were in a customer service role, you could highlight accomplishments such as achieving a high customer satisfaction rating, resolving a high volume of customer complaints, or implementing a new customer feedback system that resulted in improved service quality.
If you were in a marketing role, you might showcase accomplishments such as launching successful marketing campaigns that increased brand visibility, achieving significant growth in website traffic or social media followers, or securing partnerships that resulted in business expansion.
Quantify Your Achievements
Whenever possible, quantify your accomplishments to provide concrete evidence of your success. Numbers, percentages, and other measurable data add credibility to your statements and help employers gauge the scale and significance of your accomplishments.
- Increased sales by 25% within six months
- Reduced customer response time by 40% through process optimization
- Led a team of 10 members and successfully completed a project within budget and ahead of schedule
- Implemented a cost-saving initiative that resulted in $51,700 in annual savings
- Generated $1.1 million in revenue through strategic marketing campaigns
- Trained and mentored a team of 15 employees, resulting in a 30% improvement in productivity
You may not have the exact number, so do your best to make a reasonable estimate. Be sure that you can back up this claim with evidence, which you should also include.
For example, “Increased sales by 25% within six months” is great! But explaining a little about how you increased sales is significantly better:
- Implemented a targeted marketing strategy focusing on social media engagement and influencer collaborations, resulting in a 25% increase in sales within six months
It shows employers that it was your effort or insight that made the difference, and it’s not just dumb luck that sales increased.
Don’t exaggerate your claims. The truth may come out later during your background checks, or the hiring manager may not believe it and start to doubt your integrity.
Use Action-Oriented Language
Action verbs are powerful tools that bring your resume to life by conveying a sense of action and initiative. When describing your responsibilities and accomplishments, start each bullet point with an action verb to create a strong and dynamic impression.
Instead of using generic verbs like “did” or “made,” use specific and compelling action verbs that accurately describe the tasks you performed.
- Led: Demonstrates your ability to take charge, guide a team, or drive initiatives
- Implemented: Highlights your capability to execute plans, strategies, or projects
- Streamlined: Indicates your efficiency in optimizing processes or workflows
- Achieved: Emphasizes your ability to reach goals or deliver successful outcomes
- Developed: Illustrates your capacity to create or enhance strategies, programs, or products
- Resolved: Showcases your problem-solving skills and ability to overcome challenges
There are literally hundreds of different words you could use!
Use a Variety of Action Verbs
Use a variety of action verbs throughout your work experience section to make your resume engaging and avoid repetition. Mix up your verb choices to demonstrate versatility and a broad range of capabilities.
However, ensure that the verbs you use accurately reflect the actions you took and the impact you made—don’t just add them because they sound impressive.
For example, you could say that you “engineered” innovative solutions or “excelled” in delivering exceptional customer service. These vivid action verbs not only enhance the overall appeal of your resume but also offer a clear picture of your contributions and accomplishments.
Focus on Results and Impact
Incorporating action verbs and quantifiable metrics allows you to focus on the results and impact of your accomplishments. And trust me, employers will be ecstatic to see how you made a difference in your previous roles.
Most job seekers simply list their day-to-day tasks on their resume, which is kind of boring and superficial.
Instead, shift the emphasis from the tasks you performed to the outcomes you achieved. Call attention to how your actions led to positive changes, improvements, or contributions to the organization.
- Implemented a streamlined project management system, resulting in a 20% reduction in project timelines and a 17% increase in overall team productivity.
- Led a cross-functional team to successfully launch a new product, generating $1.2 million in revenue within the first three months of release.
- Developed and executed a comprehensive marketing campaign that increased customer engagement by 31% and drove a 28% increase in sales.
- Revamped customer service processes, resulting in a 40% decrease in customer complaints and a 24% improvement in customer satisfaction ratings.
- Collaborated with the engineering team to optimize manufacturing processes, reducing production costs by 19% while maintaining product quality.
Explain the challenges or situations you faced to provide context for your accomplishments. Describe the circumstances that necessitated your actions and the obstacles you overcame.
This helps employers understand the context in which you achieved your results and demonstrates your ability to handle challenging situations.
- Effectively resolved multiple customer complaints regarding a faulty holiday product by orchestrating expedited replacements despite inventory shortages and shipping delay
- Consistently navigated staffing shortages during the pandemic, upholding seamless store operations and delivering top-tier customer service
- Expertly tackled recurring technical glitches within essential software across a series of system updates, guaranteeing uninterrupted productivity
Use the STAR Method
Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your accomplishment statements.
Start by briefly describing the situation or challenge you encountered, outline the specific tasks and actions you took, and then conclude with the positive results you achieved.
This framework provides a clear structure and helps you present your accomplishments concisely and compellingly.
This approach works great for answering job interview questions, too!
- Skillfully managed communication during a company-wide system outage, keeping stakeholders informed about progress and timelines. Collaborated with IT to resolve the issue swiftly, minimizing business disruption and demonstrating adept crisis management.
- Spearheaded a series of brainstorming sessions that brought together diverse teams to solve a persistent product design challenge. Integrated ideas from various departments, leading to a breakthrough solution and showcasing collaborative problem-solving.
- Identified inefficiencies in inventory management by analyzing sales data and stock levels. Implemented streamlined processes that optimized inventory turnover, resulting in cost savings and improved stock availability.
While it is important to highlight your accomplishments, be selective and prioritize the most significant ones. Space on your resume is limited, so focus on relevant, recent, and impactful accomplishments.
However, you should include a mix of achievements that showcase different skills and strengths if they add to your credentials. Hyper-focusing on one skill will only limit the overall picture you’re painting for potential employers.
Be Specific and Concise
Be specific and concise in your descriptions when incorporating action verbs and quantifiable metrics. Use clear and straightforward language that accurately conveys the nature of your accomplishments.
Avoid vague or generic statements that do not provide meaning or context, like “Achieved great results” or “Led successful projects.” What does that even mean??
Instead, provide tangible details and results, such as:
- Boosted sales by 25% through targeted marketing campaigns on various digital platforms, strategically reaching and engaging with the target audience
- Led a team of 10 to complete a project two weeks ahead of schedule, resulting in a cost savings of $50,000
By being specific, you help potential employers understand the value you can bring to their organization.
Tailor to the Job Requirements
Tailor your statements to align with the job you are applying for. Again, this customization helps demonstrate your suitability for the role and aligns your accomplishments with the employer’s needs.
Remember, employers are interested in the value you can bring to their specific organization. They don’t care how you managed spreadsheets in previous jobs; they want to see how your expertise can turn data into actionable insights and drive strategic decision-making.
Your resume is your chance to highlight how your unique skills and achievements directly contribute to the organization’s success.
You’re proving your knack for making things happen by showcasing your accomplishments and results.
Think about the biggest projects you have successfully completed or the most significant achievements you have attained throughout your career. These accomplishments could include surpassing targets, solving complex problems, leading successful teams, implementing innovative strategies, or receiving recognition for your work.
Reflect on the specific details of these achievements. Consider the challenges you faced, the actions you took to overcome them, and the positive outcomes you achieved.
Quantify your accomplishments using numbers, percentages, or other measurable data whenever possible. Estimate if necessary.
Write compelling bullet points that highlight these achievements for your resume. Use action verbs to convey your proactive involvement and quantify the results whenever possible.
For example, instead of simply stating, “Managed a successful project,” you should write something like, “Led a multidisciplinary team of 10 members and delivered a high-profile project three weeks ahead of schedule, resulting in a 20% increase in customer satisfaction.”