Media File: Experience Section
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Many job ads call for individuals with relevant experience, and all employers prefer experienced people to inexperienced ones. Your experience section can be the "heart" of your résumé. How can you put your experiences in the best light? Read below for some strategies.
What is an experience section?
An experience section emphasizes your past and present employment and/or your participation in relevant activities. Sometimes this section goes under other names such as the following:
- Work Experience
- Professional Experience
- Work History
- Field Work
- Volunteer Work
- Relevant Experience
Feel free to customize your headings for this section, especially if you are writing a tailored résumé. For example, if the job ad calls for someone with editorial experience, you may want to create a section with the heading "Editorial Experience." Even the busiest reader will notice. Usually, résumé experience sections move from most recent to oldest experience. But with a tailored résumé, you may want to note important and applicable experience first, thus not following a chronological order.
Also, you may discover you need more than one section to organize your experiences. For instance, you may want a section for volunteer work and another for your work history or one for technical experience and another for supervisory experience.
The usual content for an experience section includes:
- Company or organization, location
- Position title
- Dates of employment or involvement
- Descriptions of responsibilities and duties
Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc., Lafayette, Indiana Security Officer, January 1997 to present
However, you need not put all this information in this order. For example, if you wish to emphasize the jobs you held rather than the place of employment, you may want to list position titles first. Also, it is often much easier to read if the dates are aligned all the way on the right side margins. This way, it is easier to navigate through which experiences have been the most recent.
Why write an experience section?
- To convince employers your experiences match their mission and goals will help you fulfill the job requirements effectively
- To provide evidence of your qualifications
- To list and describe your experiences in the most relevant way possible
- To make yourself stand out and show what makes you unique
Where should you place the experience section?
Most people put their experience somewhere in the middle of the page, between their education section and their activities. If you have significant experiences, you may wish to emphasize them by placing your experience section closer to the top of your page. If your experiences are not obviously relevant, however, you may want to put your experiences beneath, for example, your activities/leadership section.
Questions to ask
- What past and present experiences do you have - including not only jobs you've held but also positions as a volunteer, intern, student, leadership role, etc.?
- What types of experiences are generally desirable in your field or area of interest?
- Which of your experiences are most related to your career goals? How can you "sell" some of your seemingly irrelevant experiences?
About the company or organization
- Which experiences are most desired by the company (as listed in job ads and position descriptions)? Which experiences would the company likely see as assets?
- Which experiences would contribute the most to the position in which you are applying?
Lastly, some college students may not have a lot of experience that pertains directly to the job/intern position/graduate school to which they are applying. Don't panic! In these cases, setting up experience sections with two subcategories (responsibilities and skills learned) can help communicate skills learned that are applicable to future positions:
Sales Associate, Hot Topic, Lafayette, IN 12/1/2010-Present
- Conduct sales transactions
- Interact with customers
- Track inventory and stock shelves
- Interpersonal communication
- Marketing and sales
- Money transactions
- Follow directions
- Work in a professional retail environment
While you may not think that the retail work you perform carries much value, the skills you're learning transfer and apply to a number of positions in a wide variety of organizations. For example, the interpersonal skills you learn dealing with irate customers during the Christmas rush can help you in stressful professional settings.
In addition, the process of working with customers to help them find what they need can help you if you want to work in sales and marketing. Moreover, the retail environment itself affords you the opportunity to participate in the distribution and sales of retail goods, which is applicable to business and even industrial engineering disciplines.
Click on the link at the top of this resource for a sample résumé.
For more information, please see the Interactive Résumé.