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I'm a mid-career professional. About 7 years ago, I changed careers. The two lines of work are both related to technology but have little in common otherwise.

  • Line of work "A": I was laid off twice due to company-level issues I could not control. Both of these resulted in several-month gaps in my work history. Then I had to leave my last job due to performance issues that were made worse by health problems. By now, my related skills are out of date and out of practice. My desire to do this kind of work has never come back, and I'm not really asked about any of these positions in my interviews.

  • Line of work "B": I have mostly been self-employed. I went back to the corporate world due to other life events and was quickly placed on a PIP that has little basis in reality. According to my mentor, a more senior member of my team, it appeared to be politically motivated.

I am now applying for new positions, but only one organization has been interested in interviewing me yet. The others are rejecting me. I'm concerned that my previous employment gaps from line of work "A" and my short tenure in my current job may be factors.

Now that I have experience in my current field working for someone else, when should I consider removing the old positions from my resume?

  • 1
    The big question about your resume without the Line "A" work is whether you can hold a job. One job leading to a PIP does not really show that. You may be able to use the Line "A" experience to help. – Patricia Shanahan May 19 at 7:49
  • Do you have 7 years of work between Line A and Line B? Your question seems unclear on this - you say you switched careers 7 years ago, but also that in your second line of work you were quickly put on a PIP, which seems contradictory. If you've got 7 years of self employment in the middle then I'd suggest you actually have Lines A, B and C. – Player One May 19 at 16:11
  • 7 years of line B alone. Almost that long in line A. – capybara May 19 at 17:40
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The way I see it, you can now safely remove the previous, un-related work experience from your resume, as you've already established a notable experience in your newer line of work. If I were you, I'd simply add a section in my resume citing my past experience briefly, just in case future employers would wonder what I was doing in past years, i.e.:

2011 - July 2017

Working in the "A" field in several positions, mainly doing this and that.

  • My CV just says "details of previous positions available on request" – Mawg May 20 at 13:10
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I made a significant career change in 2011. My resume reflects the position applied for, meaning I put the education and achievements pertaining to my new career at the top. I list the previous positions, but with much less detail. People in my new career really don't know, nor do they care what a SQL Server DBA does.

Recently I got back into the IT world for several months between positions in my new career. I did list my last 7 years of employment, but I focused more on my IT skills and education. I just devoted less page space to the previous things. What I did emphasize from those positions was interpersonal skills like management and administration that would be beneficial to my current gig.

Just recently I got hired again for my "new" career that I started in 2011. While there may not be need for a SQL Server DBA, some fo the IT skills carryover though. It actually benefited me quite a bit to have skills in IT, because I'm not the typical guy they could have hired in that field, and I can actually maintain a computer network rather than having to pay a lot of money to a company to do that.

Bottom line is that everything you do, every position you're in, you're learning and developing your skill set and experiences. Your background makes you uniquely qualified to do a job that someone may not be suited for. Don't be afraid to use what you know.

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You asked,

Now that I have experience in my current field working for someone else, when should I consider removing the old positions from my resume?

The key point you need to focus on in order to understand this question is that a resume is a sales tool. You're selling yourself to potential employers. It's just like an advertisement in the newspaper. When Apple takes out a full page add in the New York Times to announce a new iPhone, they don't also include photos of the PCs they were making in the 90's. Instead, they focus on what makes the new iPhone relevant and interesting for it's intended audience.

You need to do the same with your resume. First, you need to understand your audience - and then you need to target your resume based on what they're looking for. Consider that employers are generally looking for two things (or, two categories of things) when reading a resume:

  • Is this person skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced in the field I'm hiring for? In other words, if I'm hiring for a C++ developer, does this person have skills in writing C++ code? This is the easy and most obvious resume feature to write for - if you're looking for a job in line of work B, and you have recent experience in B that has given you valuable skills, you need to make sure that is a focus of your resume - the jobs where you learned those skills should be prominently featured and you should give concrete examples of work you've done, or other specific information to show your skills.

  • Is this person a good employee? Employers are concerned about how you will perform in their work environment - will you be able to communicate with your peers and clients? Can you interpret fuzzy requirements and ask good questions to clarify them? Can you follow the rules? Will you slack off all day once a project has lost your interest? Will you quit after 3 weeks because you got a different offer somewhere else? This can be a much harder thing for people to show off on paper, since you can't just write "I'm a good employee." It's also more of a risk evaluation for the employer, essentially they're trying to feel out if you'll cause problems or not: even the most skilled employee can upset customers or job hop or whatever.

Your question really focuses on the second bullet point. If I could rephrase what you asked, it would be:

What value, if any, do old positions in another line of work add to my resume, now that I've had a few years of experience in a new line of work?

It sounds like your skills at "A" are not really relevant, but your work history as an employer may be. At the very least, showing you have years of employment can be helpful to show you have some continuity. It can also give you a starting point for "soft skills" questions you may be asked in the interview. That said, it does sound like you had a bit of a rocky timeline, so you may want to keep it simple:

Software Development Various employers and positions, 2009 - 2014

Responsible for web application development

This way, you show that you were gainfully employed, and you have a point of reference to discuss what you'd been doing in the past. Interviewers who see this may ask why you switched careers - so make sure you have a positive answer that focuses on why you like B and what you hope to accomplish there. In other words, take advantage of showing off that you made a deliberate switch to B, if possible.

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