From career coaches to professional development organizations, everyone has an opinion on how you should structure your resume. For folks with experience in a variety of fields, using categories is the way to go. If you don’t have a wealth of full-time employment history, breaking down your specific talents and strengths in detail can give you a leg up. But what if your work experience doesn’t fit neatly into one of the standard formats?
It can be tricky to find the best way to effectively list work on your resume if you're a contractor. Since freelancers are primarily self-employed, there isn’t a straightforward recipe. Don’t worry! Here are some top tips to secure the attention of potential employers.
Don’t Be Afraid to List Contract Work
One of the key aspects that hiring managers initially screen resumes for is consistency and longevity in employment. And it is precisely these two things that many contractors do not have! Because contract work is usually short-term, it is hard to demonstrate that you are a reliable employee who will stick around for the long haul with an organization. The lack of consistency in one place makes it hard for those making hiring decisions to assess if you possess qualities they want in an employee. As such, you must find creative ways to highlight your qualities and make it known that you’re hardworking, flexible, and easy to collaborate with.
While not ideal, if you are a freelance worker, you still need to showcase your experience. If contract work is what you’ve got to show, then do so with your best foot forward! Include lots of detail to legitimize the work you’ve done. Confidence in your abilities will go a long way here.
Plus, you can even write a cover letter that spells out why your job history looks the way it does. Hiring managers will notice the effort you put into sharing yourself with the company, giving you an edge over the competition.
List Contract Work in Chronological Order
Since freelance work is all over the map in terms of employer and location, the best way to organize your resume is to list your work experience chronologically and make it look neat and easy to sift through. A good tip here is to ditch anything on your resume that is older than ten years unless the project has special significance to you or your industry.
You should tailor the specific projects you include on your resume to the job you're applying for. For example, experience as a bartender doesn’t have much relevance to your abilities as a teacher. As a self-employed worker, you likely have a laundry list of experiences you could share. But when it comes to past employment, quality is far more important than quantity. Choose a handful of projects you’ve worked on that you feel proud of and that are relevant to the company with which you’re applying.
Ensure that there are not too many long gaps in employment in this list. If there are, fill in the gaps with other work or be prepared to explain what you were doing in the “in-betweens” during your interview with the company. The better prepared you are, the better the outcome will be.
Document the Skills You Developed
While it may be hard to show your reliability and longevity with a business as an independent contractor, you can still share the skills you’ve developed over your career. In contract work, you interact with so many unique clients and have your hands on many creative pursuits. Give yourself credit where it’s due by giving specific examples of skills you have mastered through your work as a contractor. Paint a picture of how those abilities have been helpful to clients in the past and how they can be useful to the company you want to work for moving forward.
Skills can be included on your resume in a variety of ways. You can share specific strengths in conjunction with each job title you have listed, embedding them into the list of work on your resume. Alternatively, you can designate a separate section of your resume for this topic. Whatever style of formatting you choose, make sure your skills are communicated concisely and that you back up your claims with real-life examples.
Highlight Your Success & Achievements
One of the main sections of any good resume that a business will hope to see is a celebration of success and achievements. Here, you have an opportunity to weave in accolades and awards that didn’t fit neatly into the chronological breakdown of work on your resume.
This section of information is great for contractors because you’ve worked on so many different projects. As such, you likely have many huge success stories to share! Pull a few key examples of accomplishments that are relevant to the job you’re applying for to list on your resume. This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate successful outcomes and sought-after qualities that you may have struggled to highlight in your work history.
Get Creative with References
Most folks with normal full-time employment automatically use bosses and supervisors without much thought when it comes to references. These are the people who can speak most accurately to your ability as a worker, right? But if you do freelance work, things can get a bit tricky here.
As an independent contractor, you are generally your own boss. But you’ve likely worked with dozens of clients who are happy with your work and would be thrilled to sing your praises to a potential employer. Utilize these folks as references to land you the best professional gig you’ve had in years.
The Bottom Line
Contrary to what career advisors will tell you, there is no single correct way to showcase experience on a resume. If you’re a contractor, the lines become even more blurry. Ensure the work history on your resume is easily understandable and relevant to the job you want, and don’t shy away from highlighting skills and celebrating your victories. With a bit of thoughtful preparation and confidence in your abilities, you’ll have your dream job in no time.