When you have a short-term experience, you might be wondering whether to put it on your resume or not. The answer to this question isn’t a straight yes or no but rather depends greatly on a few things.
The basic question you need to ask yourself is will it be a positive or negative for the people deciding whether or not to have you in for an interview in the jobs you apply to. Now, while you can’t know for certain one way or the other, there are some key things that will give you a pretty accurate guess as to which way they’ll view the addition or omission of the experience.
First of all what was the nature of the experience itself? Was it a one-time volunteer experience such as being a helper in a local Terry Fox Walk For A Cure For Cancer fundraiser? The benefit of this experience or one like it is that it demonstrates your community involvement, your willingness to donate your time and the cause itself is one just about everyone can get behind. If you are out of work, it also shows you’ve done something productive with your time. A one day donation of your time doesn’t detract from your real goal which is finding paid employment and could translate into part of a good answer as to how you’ve been using your time since your last job in a future interview.
On the other hand, a one day volunteer experience may seem trivial and really stretching things if you try to make it out to be something bigger than what it is; especially if the experience is unrelated to the job you’re going for now. Volunteering for a few hours at a local charity car wash won’t likely win you much credit if you’re competing to get an interview for a job on a construction site. It depends also on the person deciding on who to have in for interviews doesn’t it? Do they themselves support the causes you do or see the merit in volunteering at all or not?
Be cautious about short-term jobs that end badly. Getting dismissed from a job that only lasted two months because you couldn’t meet the job requirements may be a big risk and do you more harm than good on a resume. The question, “Why did you leave your last job” could have you fumbling and revealing more than you think leading to an overall negative impression on the potential employer. I lean toward dropping the experience from the resume and eliminating the need to reveal anything about the poor ending.
Suppose however you’ve taken a seasonal contract job working in retail at the local mall; or you’re one of Santa’s elves in a photo session for Christmas. The end of the job is a foregone conclusion and has nothing to do with performance. This on a resume is often a positive as it demonstrates your ability to obtain work and the good habits that go with working (punctuality, responsibility and routine). You can make the case that this experience was one you took to pay some bills and tide you over as a short-term activity but you’ve turned to focus on your true passion; and you follow this statement by naming the position you’re applying for now.
The downside of leaving a position off your resume – volunteer or paid – is that it creates a gap. “How do I explain this gap on my resume?” is the concern you may have. Depending on the length of that gap, you could say you took some time to detach yourself from the workforce to figure out what you really want to do with your life. Yes you could have gone out and got just any old job but you decided instead your next job wasn’t going to be a job at all but rather THE job for you. Of course you have to know why this job is such a great fit.
If a job ended positively and you have good references you’re likely less concerned about short-term jobs on the resume. However, drawbacks to even good experiences could include both the salary of the job and the level of responsibility you had. If a job was 6 months or less and you were paid a minimum wage, you might be concerned about the interviewer assuming you’ll work for less. You might also think about them having a simplistic understanding of what the role you did and if you’re overselling the complexity of the job, they might wonder if you’re up to doing a job with considerable more responsibility with them.
Short-term experiences do keep you connected to people, maintain good work habits and in some cases bring in money. They can also be a way to rebuild self-worth, feel good about yourself after a negative experience and get some current experience on a resume complete with references. Therefore they can be good for the mind and the body making you more attractive to other employers.
If you’re still concerned about whether or not to include short-term experiences on your resume, have a personal, no-cost conversation with an Employment Counsellor or Job Coach. Not only will they help you decide whether it’s in or out, but they should be able to help you with the wording on the resume and draw out the transferable skills you acquired in that experience.