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Your Employment History Is a Story

Your employment history is more than a list of places you worked. It’s a story you’re telling employers. Make sure you’re telling a good one with these tips.


What do David Copperfield, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and your resume have in common? They’re all stories. You might not think about it very often, but your employment history is more than a list of places you’ve worked, it’s a story you tell employers. From it, they learn who you are, what motivates you, and how you can contribute to their mission.

That’s why every job on your resume matters. Of course, your most recent job carries the most weight in hiring decisions. But, don’t forget that the job you’re applying for should also advance your story in a meaningful way.

Here’s how to shape your employment history to better tell the story of you.

Find The Theme Of Your Employment History

“The next question is, Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Look at all of your past experiences and figure out what they say about you. More importantly, think about how you can transform them from a list of accomplishments into a story. Here are some common themes your career story might follow:

  • Growth – You started in a junior role and have expanded your skills over time. Now you’re an expert or approaching expert status.
  • Transformation – You started out on one career path and ended up somewhere different, but built valuable transferable skills along the way.
  • Unfolding – You’re somewhere in the middle of one of the two stories listed above. In that case, your next job is especially vital, because it helps bring your story into focus.

Craft A Resume That Tells Your Story

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
― Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Once you’ve found the theme, you can start shaping a story around it to write your resume. The way you present your achievements, and even what you choose to include, can change the way your story flows.

Keep in mind that your resume doesn’t have to chronicle every job you’ve ever had. Instead, it should cover roughly the last decade and give employers a good overview of your abilities. Here are a few ways to bring your story into focus:

  • Consider condensing or removing roles that don’t contribute to the plot
  • Write achievements that highlight your growth and increasing responsibility.
  • Fill out the plot with special projects, certifications, and volunteer work that fit your overall theme.

Don’t assume the hiring manager will figure out your story on their own. Make it super clear which theme your story fits. Use phrases like:

  • “Entrusted with increasing responsibility in…”
  • “Worked toward…”
  • “Applied expertise in…”
  • “Transitioned into…”
  • “Stepped in to fill gaps created by…”

Consider What Your Most Recent Role Tells Employers

“It’s in vain to recall the past, unless it works some influence upon the present.”
― Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Your past role absolutely influences your present and future. It’s a part of your career history that employers are likely to consider pretty closely as an indicator of your abilities. When writing your resume, focus on what you achieved in the role. Don’t just list what you did, focus on how you saved time, improved processes, or made learning more accessible.

Of course, there may be times when your most recent role doesn’t align with what you’d like to be doing. You’ll just need to make a few adjustments to how you present yourself.

For example, let’s say you’re a teacher transitioning into instructional design roles. You do have some instructional design experience, but it’s not your most recent job. In that case, you might decide to split your work history into two sections. The instructional design experience section goes on top with the teaching experience section beneath it. This sends the signal that you’re focused on instructional design, even if it wasn’t your most recent role.

Choose Your Next Role Wisely

“’Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Telling a compelling career story isn’t just about what’s already happened. It also takes into account what’s going to happen next.

Your next role will become part of your employment history and therefore, part of your career story. Most people don’t think about how a role will look to future employers when they’re in the middle of applying for it, but they should. Ask yourself:

  • How will this role help me expand my skills?
  • Will this role give me increased responsibility or new areas of speciality?
  • Can I envision myself staying in this role for at least one year?

In short, before you take a job, consider whether the role is the right fit for you. Every chapter of your career story is a vital one. Make sure your resume and your employment history tell your professional story.

Teamed can help you write your next chapter. We connect skilled digital learning professionals with organizations that need their services. Contact us or visit our job board to advance your story.

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