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No need to delete: How to write about ‘old’ jobs in your new job search

Written by Karin Lee Published: Feb. 2 2021

Did you know that it’s standard practice to not list jobs you’ve had more than ten years ago on your CV? That ten years is the unofficial cut-off date for writing about your career when applying for a new job?

You’re certainly not alone if you didn’t know.

But now that you do, should you take a second look at your writing?

People tell me that they can really agonize over having to hit the delete button when editing their first CV draft. They say that cutting these jobs from their Work Experience section is like saying they weren’t important enough to keep. When in reality they might have learned lessons at those workplaces that have shaped who they are as individuals and employees today.

The middle way

My response is that there is a middle way that CV writers can take, something between putting every single job they’ve ever had down on paper and deleting them completely.

This way involves grouping jobs together in a time frame, then writing a brief description of how they have a common thread.

For example, you can either do this in your Professional Summary at the top of your first page…

I have many years of experience working with the legal issues connected with the telecommunications industry. My positions have included net neutrality, universal service obligations and market regulation law. My skill set has only grown over time, and I’m looking for a position where I can provide high-quality consulting that will help my company succeed.

…or as the last entry of your Work Experience section…

Before getting my MSc in Petroleum Engineering, I held both part-time and full-time positions in the offshore oil industry, from roustabout and roughneck to rig operator and well equipment designer.

See how this works?

The past is never dead. It’s not even past (W. Faulkner).

So you should never feel that you can’t include past experiences in your current job search. Just make sure that whatever ‘old’ jobs you include are relevant to what you’re applying for now.

Finally, practice talking about these former positions as if you were in a job interview. Ask yourself, ‘Why is this job so important that I feel it must be listed on my CV? More importantly, what did I accomplish while I had it? What important lesson did I learn from it?’

Doing these steps will help you move from the past into the present, from the old into the new – without sacrificing the work and life experiences that made you the job applicant you are today.


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