Presenting a string of short-term jobs on your resume is a common problem. You separate from your most recent significant role, and, typically while job searching, you take on a gig to fill your time and pad your wallet. The pro in this scenario is that you were active and productive. The cons, however, can be several: the job is outside your traditional career path; the job was at a much lower level than your experience warrants, or the job was for a friend who has a company or consulting firm. Let’s talk about how to position a short-term or multiple short-term roles on your resume.
If the short-term role was in your industry and at your level:
That’s good news! The best option is likely to present this time as a consulting engagement. Consulting is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate to the audience reading your resume that your expertise is still useful and valuable in the marketplace.
The key with consulting is detailing the actual projects or engagements. There is nothing worse than a resume by Jane Doe that starts off with “JD Consulting, 2016 to Present: Participated in a series of technology projects for small and mid-sized businesses.” When that is followed up with zero detail, it falls absolutely flat.
Instead, treat every project like a bulleted achievement. Specificity is important, so that you position your consulting time as bona fide work. Present a description of the client, what they called on you to do, what you actually did, and the quantified results.
If the short-term role was outside your traditional career path:
This scenario requires evaluating a couple time factors: a) how long you were in the role; and b) how long it has been since your prior, regular position ended. If the short-term position was less than 3 months ago, and your regular position ended 4 months ago, it may be best to simply omit the short term role, then bury the dates indicating your regular position.
What’s also important here is not distracting your audience from your primary message. If you’re an IT Director who happens to have a love and natural talent for the arts, and your short-term role was assisting curating a museum exhibit, that would be too distracting from your IT achievements and expertise.
The best way to present your time spent would be to showcase it as additional employment or a professional endeavor in a separate section towards the end of your resume.
If the short-term role was at a lower level than your experience warrants:
Working at all, even if it’s at a lower level, is typically a positive point to present on your resume. Just as you can bury the dates for when your last regular position ended, you can also bury your job titles. Both simply require formatting the resume so that the material you want to bury is neither in bold, nor separated out along the right or left margin – we don’t want it to attract the eye too easily.
When presenting a role lower than what you’re used to, make sure to concentrate on specific achievements, particularly if you were able to contribute ideas, processes or tools that were new to the organization. Emphasize any numbers you can that indicate the impact you were able to deliver.
Too often, the tendency is to downplay this because it was “just” work for a friend. However, reconsider that stance. No one in your audience knows that this is your friend’s company, only you do. You’re not hiding anything or holding back information in some unethical manner. Simply treat the short-term employment like it was with any other employer.
Present what you were called in to do in the first place. Friend or not, the owner of the organization needed your particular brand of expertise for a specific reason. Discuss your scope of responsibility, and, as always, present your specific, quantified achievements.
In many cases, short-term work can be showcased to your benefit. Bottom-line: temporary work beats having no work every day of the week. Additionally, there may be a point at which you can leverage the contacts you made during that assignment in order to land your next permanent role.