Resume advice: What to do if you have less than 4 years experience?


I bought the Manager Tools Resume Workbook yesterday after enjoying the site's podcasts for the past month. As a result, I am rewriting my resume from scratch. I have some questions on how to proceed. At present, my new resume is 3/4 of a page.


1. I graduated from university in 2009. Should I present myself as a recent graduate or an experienced professional? If I focus on jobs held since graduation (Sept 2009), it's only 2 and that makes for a rather thin document.

2. I currently only have 2 jobs listed on the resume. Current role (Sept 2010 to present) is full time at a large bank. Prior to that I had a contract consultant position at an asset management firm. At that time, I was not aware of the Career Tools methodology of maintaining career documentation, so it is difficult to recall what the accomplishments were. My rough sense is that I delivered the recommendations but the firm did not execute them. Should I emphasize "process" accomplishments instead (e.g. interviewing staff of 15 to determine requirements)

3. My goal is to seek a new job that is substantially different from what I do now (seeking to move to finance department in a large bank or a Big 4 accounting firm). Are there any considerations I should be aware of to facilitate a career switch?





There's nothing wrong with having less than 4 years experience

There's nothing wrong with having less than four years of experience. Companies need new workers for the same reason movies need young actors.

It's only a problem if the jobs you're applying for truly require at least four years of experience (many don't). If four years is a requirement, then you either need to convince them you're so talented that you didn't need four years to get the seasoning normally required for the role… or you need to adjust your expectations and apply for other openings.

Four years out, it's not the end of the world to mention a job you held during college or a club you managed or journal you wrote for during school. However, you are quickly moving past the point where college experience is relevant.

It's possible that you don't need a full page to explain your career. Remember that there are people out there who have 20 years of experience spread over 4 different companies, and they still condense it into one page. Two inches of blank space is a smaller negative than five lines of puffed-up elaboration.

But what you really ought to do is try to recapture some of the accomplishments you had in your previous jobs. Here are some tips for jogging your memory:

  • Dinner with some old colleagues. Have you kept in touch with former coworkers? Have a beer with them, buy them lunch. Go over some of the war stories.
  • Shoeboxes, tax returns, receipts, any paperwork from those old jobs. Sometimes even a business card from a trade show will remind you of that time you worked on that thing and it turned out well.
  • Look over your old E-mails, if you still have access to the account. Look in your USB drives or your personal E-mail for documents you brought home some weekend. Check old text messages, if your phone goes back that far.
  • You might not have clear "increased sales by 4% by simplifying product catalog text," but you can still retrace some of your steps and remember what you did and how it helped.

Good luck!


Resume Advice

 Hi Fred.

Two roles is plenty, it's not quantity but quality! Keep the information chronological. If you can't remember achievements just summarise the position and your key responsibilities. Also think about what you learnt whilst in the roles and how they developed you professionally.

It is quite brave to go for a completely different job, you may need to take a pay cut or do a very good job convincing the employer that you have sufficient transferable skills and relevant experience. Also banks and big 4 are first choices for lots of people so if you are making a big change do consider all of the people who have trained or have experience in the relevant role that you will be competing with.

Having said that if you do go for it you need to demonstrate that you understand the role and have skills and experience that are relevant, so try to bring these out in your résumé and any interviews you have.

Hope this helps, and good luck! Jonno.

Thanks for the feedback

Hi there,

Thanks for the suggestions to get back in touch with people. It's a great idea.

I'm currently working with a manager at Big 4 firm to get into their organization - he knows a number of people from my company who have gone over to the firm so it has occured.

I decided not to include university experiences but I did make add two extra lines of detail to my education section. The resume is still one page though.