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Science Careers Blog

January 15, 2009

Explaining Multiple Jobs in One Year on Your Resume

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal's careers section posted a reader's question that more and more scientists and engineers are likely to face in a weak economy: How do you explain short job tenures on your resume without looking like a job-hopping flake?

Having two or more jobs listed in one year on a resume can raise a flag among hiring managers. But during difficult times job changes may not be the fault of the applicants. They didn't leave their jobs; the jobs left them.

Even in good economic times, short-term work assignments offer a chance for scientists entering industry careers to show off their talents to prospective employers. The key to avoiding resume trouble is clear and honest advertising.

The Journal's Elizabeth Garone recommends that if your resume uses a chronological format and you're out of work for economic reasons--layoffs, or the company went out of business after you worked there a few months--the resume should say exactly that. H.R. departments and hiring managers know times are tough and that bad things can happen to good people.

Garone also suggests grouping consulting, freelance, and short-term assignments into a separate section. This approach can benefit full-time workers who take on freelance jobs after working hours.

Garone quotes career coach Sherri Thomas who suggests using a more functional, skills-based resume rather than the traditional reverse-chronological employment listing. This approach, says Thomas, highlights your contributions and capabilities rather than the dates you worked over the years.

In addition to the advantages outlined by Thomas, this approach can also handle gaps in your resume--periods you didn't work due to family responsibilities, say, or just unemployment.

Don't confuse a company's employment application, which often asks for a chronological employment list, with your resume, however. Thomas says that applicants need to be completely forthcoming about their dates of employment when filling out a job application, even if your resume uses a functional or skills-based format. "Include any employment, even if it's only for six weeks," says Ms. Thomas. "If you omit employment on an application, it's considered lying."

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