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Jul 18, 2013

Writing a resume can be difficult, and the “work history” section can be particularly challenging. If you’re new to the workforce, you may not have much relevant work experience. If you returned to college in the middle of your career to change fields or broaden your skills, you may worry that your long work history will make you seem overqualified or open you up to age discrimination.

So, how far back should you go?

Since every position is different, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. But, many résumé experts agree that 10 years is a good rule of thumb, as much of the technology you used prior to that may now be obsolete. If you’ve worked for more than ten years at one company, however, don’t ignore that. Much of your résumé should focus on your different positions there, and many experts advise listing several job titles within the company separately to show at a glance how you’ve moved up.

It’s always important to pay attention to the job description. If it asks for 20 years of experience within a field, for example, limiting your experience to ten years may make you look unqualified. On the other hand, if you’re worried that adding in positions you held decades ago will make you seem older, it’s okay to add in the skills you learned there under the “skills” section instead of listing the specific job.

Those with less work history may want to include more positions, even if they don’t seem to apply. You may think that summer flipping burgers isn’t worth mentioning, but you learned valuable skills there, such as working as a team and meeting deadlines. Be creative, and try to show how the skills you learned match what the employer is looking for.  As you get more experience, you can swap out those positions for ones more in line with the field.

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