Career Services

Reframing ‘Experience” on Your Resume

Written by: Liz Mimms, Career Development Counselor

When compiling a resume, the most important way to present your information is to do so in a way that documents and supports the career goal of that specific resume. Each resume should be targeted toward the specific job you are applying for as there is no “one size fits all” resume. Many applicants get stuck creating new and inventive resumes due to the misconception that the only “valid experience” many students have is their education and perhaps some work related experience.
This makes me cringe.
In this article, we will look at volunteering, caregiving, gaps in employment, internships, teaching experiences/travel abroad, military roles– even hobbies – as amazingly relevant resume boosters to add to your professional transferrable knowledge, skills, and abilities, thus better qualifying you for the job you want!
• When you volunteer, you are providing services to groups or companies without being paid, and on your own time. How can this be counted as resume-worthy, professional experience? Typically, you are using talents such as public outreach, organizing events, managing information, leading teams, publishing articles, writing op-ed pieces, and public speaking.
• If you are in between jobs, consider volunteering as a way to keep your professional skills sharpened, or even develop new ones. If you have always wanted to develop your public speaking skills or community outreach, each year during the legislative session, many groups seek volunteers to help reach out to the community and politicians to spread their message and agenda.
Gaps in Employment
• It is correct to assume that employers pay attention to gaps in employment. The key is to ensure those gaps are filled with qualifiable reasons you were out of work. For example:
o Caregiver/Nanny- Taking care of a family member, raising children, and providing hospice are all qualifiable, responsible reasons you were not holding down a “regular paycheck” job.
o Student – Attending school can be a full-time job itself! This is another time in life where holding down a typical job can be impossible and gaps in employment can occur.
• Demonstrate such gaps in employment as you would any other “experience” by formatting them the same way you would a job. A great resource for proper job description verbiage is ONet – the Occupational Outlook Information website found at

o Example
• Nanny July 2010- August 2012
Parsons Family Juno, AK
• Demonstrated proper social manners and encouraged children between the ages of 7 and 11 to develop concern for others, built interpersonal relationships, and communication skills.
• Explained and participated in age-appropriate activities, such as reading, science, and nature crafts and various arts to encourage intellectual development.
• Used reasoning and logic to identify the alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to play or task-oriented difficulties.

• A non-profit or a small business will often offer an internship in lieu of a part-time position because they cannot afford to pay someone. Your mission as an intern is to do the job well, as if you were getting paid, and produce measurable results so you can list the impact and any relevant numbers on your resume.
• If the group with which you are interning is related to your profession, position, or industry, you will demonstrate that you are involved in and up-to-date with your field – a very important thing to show, especially if you have been unemployed for a while.

Teaching Experience/Travel Abroad
• Having travel or teaching abroad experience increases the chances of developing both language and cultural fluency, which can serve you well in a workplace where cultural diversity and fluency is expected.
• A foreign language ability always looks great on a resume. Be sure to qualify it by stating “Able to read, write, and speak Chinese fluently/intermediately/conversationally.”
• Also, simply living and working abroad shows future employers that you can adapt to new scenarios and be open to new ideas.

• Veterans typically work very well in teams and structured environments, yet they also have to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.
• Prior military experience prepares employees to work and demonstrate respect in a multi-cultural environment. They are also able to achieve organizational goals and follow policy and procedure flawlessly.

Non-Related Work
• If you are re-entering the workforce or entering it for the first time, you will have to look at your life experiences to get this information.
• To learn about various occupations and what skills are required for each, you can do the following:
o Gather occupational information
o Read job descriptions in “help wanted” ads
o Contact professional associations
Do you like to compete in marathons? How about build model airplanes? Are you a Stanley Kubrick fanatic and know every factoid that exists on his works? Such hobbies can add strength to your resume by demonstrating personal, transferable skills. For example:
• Marathon runners are able to set goals and work in small increments to achieve them. Self-discipline is something they thrive on and can usually work very well alone or with support from others.
• Model airplane builders pay meticulous attention to detail. Their patience and determination to finish a project – no matter how long it may take – is admirable. They like to start a projects from scratch and work them all the way to completion.
• Film fanatics typically have an excellent memory for facts and figures and are able to recite memorable lines from favorite movies very easily. They have more of an artistic, eclectic side and work well when creativity is involved.

With all this insight of new, transferable information that can better qualify you for the next job you want, concern might turn to the length of the resume. Remember, not everything can fit in the resume. Save some information for the cover letter or the interview.
CSU Career Services can be reached through e-mail at or by phone at 1-800-977-8449 ext. 6551.

Author: lucinda.taylor

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