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Giggin’ It! How to Explain Short-Term Work on Your Resume

Topics: Career Advice

Sometime during middle school, my parents began to preach the importance of gainful employment to me. Just like their parents before them, my mother and father wanted me to find a career, find an employer, and then spend the rest of my life within those walls as a faithful employee. This vision of theirs was well-meaning, of course, but by the time I graduated high school, the notion of pensions and careers for life had faded along with the grandeur that was VHS and cassette tapes.

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Gone are the days when you started at the bottom of an organization and worked your way up to the corner office. In today’s economy, employees often become “senior” and ripe for the picking after three- to four-year stints, moving up the ladder across different companies and even industries.

One trend that continues to gain momentum is the use of “gigs” as a sole source of income — think freelance work and side jobs. These gigs may last several weeks, months or as long as a particular project or objective takes to complete.

With this change in the way people are accepting and completing work, there comes the quandary of how to include these gigs in a meaningful way on a resume. The traditional guidance for resume-writing doesn’t take this type of work into account, but the experiences and successes gained from these smaller terms of employment can be highly valuable as you pursue either more freelance work or more traditional types of employment. Here are some suggestions for making your gigs work for you within your resume.

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Aggregation. Like many of those who “gig,” you may have several different short-term projects, possibly stemming from different organizations. If the work you were doing is related, consider grouping them together within your resume. A short introductory paragraph that ties all the work showcased below is a great way to capture the attention of the recruiter or hiring manager and emphasizes that while the terms of the assignments may have been minor, the individual impacts are related to the role you’re seeking and your experience is much broader than may be perceived without the conglomeration.

Feature Projects. Depending on the type of work being done, it may make sense to exhibit your projects via a portfolio. Sure, you may have only been a graphic designer for ABC Company for less than six months, but that killer example of the marketing campaign you were involved in could be the wow factor your resume needs. Rather than simply referencing a particular campaign, consider including links to the work in which you were involved. As always, if this was a team effort, give credit where it is due — being part of a team is not a bad thing, and excluding your collaborators can come back to haunt you later in the interview process. Take pride and credit for your contributions.

Shape the Context. If you’re seeking more freelance gigs, obviously there’s nothing lost with an illustrious display of the large amount of work you’ve done up to this point — that’s what the employer is looking for, and your resume will let them know that you are well-versed within these types of situations. However, if you’re looking to switch gears — say you’ve been working freelance positions through college to support yourself and gain experience — make sure you are accurately framing the intention of your gigs so as not to scare off a potential longer-term employer. Use your experiences as a benefit, focusing on your accomplishments and the fact that you are full of ambition, a self-starter, and willing to work hard to accomplish your goals.

With the flattening of organizations and the need to be agile, gigs are likely here to stay. The next generation may in fact focus on a particular function, acting as an expert for multiple organizations as their needs flux into the future. This type of work is surely different from that of past generations, but fear not — the resume is a living, breathing beast, ready to handle all that you throw its way. Understanding how to show off your best self has always been a challenge built into the resume-crafting process. These suggestions should get you heading in the right direction!

Michelle Kruse has more than 10 years of hiring and recruiting experience and a background in coaching and leadership development. At?ResumeEdge, Michelle recruits and hires résumé writers, provides training and ongoing support, manages strategic partnerships, and serves as a subject matter expert on the job search process.


Michelle Kruse
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