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After my graduate CS degree, I have worked for a large IT multinational company for the past five years.

However, I worked with a startup for about two years on the side. We were hoping to get funded there and then I could have joined my own startup. Unfortunately, the startup died and I am still with my first company, now actively looking for a change.

What is the best way of putting this "moonlighting" experience on my resume?

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    More grammatically than you asked the question, hopefully. – Amy Blankenship Mar 8 '13 at 3:10
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    Yup, I deserved that for posting without proof-reading. Edited now – user8115 Mar 8 '13 at 3:28
  • Strictly speaking, you might have conflict of interest issue with your current employer if your moonlight experience is also in IT. – scaaahu Mar 8 '13 at 5:58
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Executive Summary

I would not list the moonlighting under job history since it may make you seem disloyal, non-committal, untrustworthy, or some combination. If I were to actually list that information, I'd make sure the employer was almost certain to appreciate it, and prepare to answer a lot of awkward questions.

Think from the Employer's Perspective

If the company is a start-up, and wants someone who has shown that they can work in that environment, they'd probably appreciate the experience.

If the company is more like your previous 'main' job they may look at it in a not-so-positive light because you've shown you won't commit 100% to the company (hence the moonlighting).

Prepare for Uncomfortable Questions

Regardless of the type of company, if you put two jobs simultaneously on your resume, prepare for some potentially uncomfortable questions, like:

  • Can you commit to our company 100%?
  • Why did you have a job on the side at all?
  • Was your employer aware of the fact that you were working for another company on the side?
  • Did you get the permission of your employer before working with the other company?
  • Would you have left your 'main' job if the startup became successful?

(etc.)

The big issues for any job could be a perceived lack of loyalty (you were splitting your time and talent between two masters), a perceived attempt to hedge bets and/or issues with commitment. Most companies will have you sign a contract giving the company a right to any work you provide while under their employment. The fact that you were starting a business on the side will not sit well with everyone (even people in start-ups).

If you have good answers to all these questions, and you think the employer will appreciate the skills, then go ahead and toss them on there. Just realize that regardless of how good your explanations are, they will put some people off in the end.

An Alternative Solution

For the above reasons, sticking it under "work history" can be a sticky proposition. One way around that is to put it under "Other Skills" or something similar. After all, the venture didn't pan out so there isn't that much benefit to naming the company, or listing it as employment. Instead you can write some truthful blurb such as:

"From 1673 to 1677 led a team of three people collaborating on a widget to turn Pb into Au."

If the employer finds it interesting, they may ask about it. If they don't, then it's not as likely to raise awkward questions. The employer may still catch on and ask, "What did your company think of that project?" or "That seems like a lot of work to do while working full time, how did you juggle it?" so you should still prepare to answer tough questions.

Tucking it away will make sure that it isn't a focal point of the discussion, but give you an opportunity to bring it up (to whatever extent you want) if it seems relevant or helpful in the interview(s).

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    Why is someone having a pet project considered to be "disloyal, non-committal, untrustworthy"? I have many times casually talked about my side projects with my managers and it was never viewed that way. Could this be a cultural thing? – MrFox Mar 8 '13 at 16:11
  • It's actually pretty common for techies to list two jobs at once on LinkedIn (for example). It's also pretty common for people to list that they are employed while running their own company, which may or may not be doing business. – Amy Blankenship Mar 8 '13 at 18:59
  • If the "side project" is something tiny, like running an etsy store to sell handmade goods your spouse is creating, it's probably not a big deal. If you are working for a large company designing widgets and have a side project with a start-up that uses the skills you learned from the company designing widgets, that's a bit different. Using full-time employment as a safety net while you are making a side bet on the "next big thing" means you have one foot out the door in the case of success. It would definitely be something I'd bring up in an interview. – jmac Apr 1 '13 at 6:05
  • +1 I like the last section. Moonlighting could be a mis-characterization. "Should I show project involvement (eg open source stuff) on a resume?" is a much easier question (YES, definitely yes). – Nathan Cooper Feb 8 '14 at 15:15
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Just make a new section under employment history. Many people have multiple or overlapping jobs, for example they are in the military reserves or volunteer firefighters.

Use it to highlight different skills from the main job. For example leadership, business development, or the use of a different technology.

I would make sure that the main job is the one identified as the current position. The side job should then be listed, as the first one after that.

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Do show it if it is technically relevant to your job.

It is experience, you may have learned new relevant things while building the startup, and it also demonstrates the fact that you are interested in your work (you're not just in it for the 9-5 to pay your rent).

People who have tried to run startups also tend to gain appreciation for the non-coders that they work with because they begin to see the value of certain managerial tasks and processes.

All else being equal, I would rather hire someone who has 'done a lot' than someone who has 'done the minimum'.

In response to concerns about loyalty:

An average job takes about 8-9 hours in a day. Assuming you sleep for another 8 hours a day, that still leaves at least 4 hours for you to pursue whatever interests or hobbies you may have. If your interest or hobbies happen to be coding and working on a startup, so be it. It does not mean you are disloyal to your employers so long as there was no conflict of interests.

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