I see you. Looking at that resume of yours, and wondering how to make the “long tail” of your career less imposing. You’ve no doubt heard all of the advice out there how your resume should never go beyond 10 years, how anything more than that will make you come across as old an outdated, how there’s really not much value to those old positions anyway….
I’m here to tell you that’s all hogwash.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a senior-level professional is to try and play the same game as the young up-and-comers. You’re not them. And if you try to emulate what they’re doing, you will only end up stripping away the unique value and depth of experience which only you are bringing to the table. And that means losing the biggest competitive advantage you have.
So let’s stop deleting those old positions and find a better, smarter way to leverage them within your resume:
3 Better Moves Than Deleting Old Positions
1) Highlight based on FIT, not DATES.
Shift your resume strategy from primarily focusing on the past few years to a broader approach that takes your entire career into account, and emphasizes those positions which are MOST RELEVANT for your current job target. So for example, if you’re looking for a Chief Technology Officer role, but the last few positions you’ve held have been consulting roles that sprawl away from that target, start the Professional Experience section with a tight “Consulting Experience” section that briefly details the recent work in a few bullet points, and then move quickly onto the first role which is directly related to your CTO target.
Remember: it is essential that Page 1 of your resume gets into directly relevant experience. Don’t make readers hunt for this on Page 2, because many will not bother.
2) Separate into Standalone Resume Sections.
If you’re worried about an excessively long work history, split it up! Teaching Experience. Strategic Advisory Positions. Military experience. If you’ve made a major industry change, like moving from being a practicing physician to working within healthcare administration, then you can split the resume into a separate section for each. This approach allows you to both get the most leverage from your “long tail” while still breaking things up and keeping the big ideas digestible for your reader.
I’ve been writing resumes for my executive clients for over 10 years now and I can tell you with zero hesitation: length of the resume is not an issue. The only issue is whether is SUSTAINS INTEREST and DEMONSTRATES UNIQUE VALUE throughout. This approach tends to hit the sweet spot in this regard.
3) Go Accomplishments-Only.
Quantifiable, relevant accomplishments are the closest thing to hard currency within the hiring process. Nothing speaks to the quality of what you’re bringing to the table more than success after success. So skip the appetizer and go straight to dessert: a “Prior Experience YEAR-to-YEAR” section or similar that highlights marquee successes for every older position.
Here’s an example:
PRIOR EXPERIENCE HIGHLIGHTS 1997-2003:
- Rebuilt marketing team from the ground up, shifted product strategy from hardware to SaaS, and drove the successful launch of 3 global products netting over $150M in new revenues as SVP Product Management and Marketing for ABS, Inc. (2000-2003)
- Grew revenues 4X ($15M to $60M) as VP Enterprise Sales and Business Development for CBG, Inc. (1997-2000). Pivoted successfully to a new B2B client and reinvented core sales and client relationship management practices.
The longer your career history, the more critical it is to define, and OWN, your unique story. Don’t bury these details under the sand — get creative about how you use them, and you’ll see a big difference in how you’re perceived by employers.