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I am in my late 40s. I have a wife who is self-employed, a young child (still single-digit age), and am self-employed myself. My wife and I are both not doing great with our income the past few years, and our little one is reaching an age where I think I could feasibly get back into the workforce. And neither my wife nor I have a solid/stable income. She has one business she operates herself, and it is highly seasonal and unpredictable. I have two I run - one is very stable but very low income, and the other is much better income but even less stable than my wife's. So a 'real job' with benefits and a stable check would do wonders for us, both in our current day-to-day lives, and in our planning for our future (which right now we have no plan).

I have not had a regular job for 22 years (late 2001 was my last 'real' job). I worked in the telecom industry back then, in middle management (lower upper management, I suppose - I was the lowest of executive level management, with a small department reporting to me). That company went out of business about a year after I left (I was cut in a series of layoffs they had to try and stay open). And, I have not stayed in touch with any of the people I worked with (either above me or below me), since I moved after I was laid off.

Aside from listing the two businesses I have been running for the past 2 decades, a couple of part-time day jobs I took just to get by, and the gig work I have been doing (Lyft, Grubhub, Instacart, etc.), how do I make a resume?

I can list the information for the bankrupt company, but it no longer exists in any form. And I don't have any contact information for any of my peers, superiors, or subordinates from that company.

I have a generic basic degree and a lot of 'life experience', but most of my certifications and such are now woefully out of date. Just the thought of trying to write a resume on its own seems more trouble than it is worth, making me reluctant to try and start a new career at this point in my life.

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  • I guess you live in a region where everything is transported verbally and on request and there are no written references from this job?
    – nvoigt
    Jun 8, 2023 at 7:14
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    Whether the company exists is kinda irrelevant. I have three previous employers on my CV. None of them exists any more.
    – SiHa
    Jun 8, 2023 at 12:38
  • In the U.S., the general consensus is that one should only list the past 10 - 15 years on a resume. But if it was more recent, you could just list it.
    – LeLetter
    Jun 8, 2023 at 21:09
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    Not sure where you're based, but as a data point, in the UK 70% of businesses fail in under 10 years. Having worked at a company that no longer exists isn't -in any way- a reflection on yourself or your capabilities. I'd suggest the larger issue is being able to demonstrate a particular skillset without recent roles that use it. To that end, I'd be fairly exhaustive when listing skills you've had to use for your own businesses.
    – Basic
    Jun 8, 2023 at 21:30
  • Info: Did your employer get liquidated without successor? Otherwise you could just list e.g. Enron (now part of Dynergy). Jun 9, 2023 at 7:07

6 Answers 6

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The first question is whether this old job is worth including. Does it show experience or skills that could be relevant for positions you're applying for now? If not, you can leave it out anyway.

If it does: You remember the name of the company and what you did there, don't you? Write that down.

Foo Industries Ltd.
1997-2001
job title
Managed a team of widget-wranglers, leveraged synergies and shifted paradigms

The fact that the company no longer exists isn't any kind of problem. Companies close sometimes. Nobody will be shocked and appalled at your failure to stay in touch with colleagues from a job you left 20 years ago.

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    Agreed. Your resume needs to cover your whole working life, gaps for family reasons etc are perfectly acceptable. Self employment is great as well. However the big part you are missing is that your resume is about you and your skills - what do you bring to the job? E.g. it sounds like you are self motivated and capable of multi-tasking (supporting family while running two companies).
    – deep64blue
    Jun 8, 2023 at 9:28
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    If you are going to include the now defunct company on the resume, I'd add a hint that it no longer exists. Otherwise people will expect it to still exist, and when they go looking for it they will get confused (even if momentarily), and may have thoughts that the entry on the resume was made up.
    – Peter M
    Jun 8, 2023 at 12:56
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    @PeterM: to be honest, I don’t even know if all the companies I worked for still exist, but I’m definitely not gonna dedicate time looking for those answers when brushing up my resume. What’s relevant is what I did then, not whether the company still lived after I left.
    – breversa
    Jun 9, 2023 at 14:46
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It's perfectly fine to list an employer that no longer exists, that sort of thing happens more often than you might expect. List the company using the name and location that was accurate at the time when you worked there. The same advice applies to companies that relocated or changed their name since you left.

Even if the company still existed, I doubt anyone would fault you for not having contact information for people from that long ago. It's probably worth remembering your last supervisor's name just in case you get asked on a form. To be honest, getting contact information for former coworkers is not an easy task. I had trouble with that on my last job search and it had only been a few months since I left. I don't remember any interviewer ever even mentioning it.

If you're concerned about a potential employer's ability to verify your prior employment, don't be. Companies rarely disappear completely. Even after bankruptcy and dissolution, the company continues to exist as a legal entity for quite some time. They may have outstanding tax or regulatory filings to complete or pending legal cases. They may end up as just a shell company that holds onto the last remaining company assets in case any remaining creditors come demanding payment. That company may only exist as a file cabinet in a lawyer's office somewhere, but key company files can be kept for quite some time after the company closes up. If a potential employer does a background check to verify your resume, the investigator should know how to track down who has your company's records and can verify your employment dates and job title.

Above all, don't be discouraged by the whole process. Starting a new career isn't easy, but that doesn't mean it's not possible or worth the work. Since you haven't been on the job market for a while, my personal advice is to not go it alone. The job market has changed a lot in the last two decades, even things like resumes and the interview process have changed. I recommend working with a career coach or a professional resume writer. Not only can they help create an effective resume, they can help you brand and market yourself in a way that appeals to potential employers and maximizes your chances for success. They'll have worked with others who have had career paths similar to yours, so they'll know what to highlight, what to ignore, and how best to position yourself as a candidate. Working with a recruiter can also be helpful, they tend to be good at taking atypical backgrounds or skillsets and finding the company that's been looking for that particular combination of skills.

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Most resumes are of interest to employers 10 years back. Anything before that is not of much interest to most employers. However in your case I'd include this company, regardless of any contact info you have for people you used to work with. Summarize your position title and responsibilities. If you want to find yourself in a mgt. position you will I am guessing have to start out from scratch but it has been my experience that those with mgt. aptitude/abilities/talents tend to get recognized fairly early in their tenures and get promoted. I am myself 55 but have little interest or aptitude for mgt. Consequently I have never been promoted to mgt. However I have seen people half my current age get kicked into mgt. because they have the aptitude and abilities it requires. (Not all of us can be mgt. and that's really a good thing -- imagine a world populated exclusively by mgt. types. Nothing would get done. ;) ) But seriously, your more recent experience, be it mgt. or not, is far more relevant to employers even than your paycheck job of 20 yrs ago. So emphasize what you have been doing, learned, and can bring to the table. You obviously have an entrepreneurial spirit in you, emphasize that and all it entails: flexibility, executive functioning, reading the marketplace, sales skills, etc. All of those are required of an entrepreneur.

Remember the resume is just to get your foot in the door. Once at an interview, there you can wow them with your entrepreneurial/mgt. potential. I know of no business that isn't looking for someone to take over XYZ and deliver some kind of results. In my co. they are always looking for people with mgt. abilities, among others.

Your position in looking for a job at this time sounds like it's better than you realize. Locate your strengths (see above) and emphasize them. Put on your salesman hat and sell yourself. You got this.

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  • "imagine a world populated exclusively by mgt. types" - that's exactly what happened in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. One planet put all their middle management on a spaceship and had it crash on another planet to get rid of them.
    – pipe
    Jun 8, 2023 at 23:01
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Where you worked in the past is a statement of fact, along with title and duties. When reading CVs this is useful and interesting but doesn't tell me much about you as a candidate.

I am more interested if I recognise the company and even better, if I know someone else who worked there.

The info I like to see in a CV is when you tender a former manager's name/phone and I can ring them to confirm details. The only topper is if I already know your referee. In my city of 400k people, this happens more often than you might guess.

In short, company names and roles/titles are good, contactable referees are better again.


In your specific case, I'd list the last conventional company in ~3 lines, and anything older would be just a single line. Then you list your self-employed roles factually without inflating them.

Avoid hyperbolising, eg "drove 25k miles for doordash" should not be described as "Regional leader for world-spanning food delivery service" HR people smell that kind of thing and it is really offputting.

The point of a CV is to get you an interview. Your goal is to make them interested enough to get you in to the next step.

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Your last employer - employee contract is 20 years in the past.

Even if it was a shorter time ago, if it is not relevant to the position you are applying for, I wouldn't include it.

If it is relevant, then add it with a note that the company ceased to exist.

Focus your CV on your recent skills and work you are doing now. Note that the CV you send to company A does not need to be the same you send to company B.

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I agree with other answers - basically include the job if it has any relevance, even if the company no longer exists.

There is another scenario which I don't think has been mentioned yet - mergers and acquisitions. For example, many of my customers over the years have been medical offices. Due to a variety of reasons (insurance, economies of scale, etc.), small medical offices either disappear (the one doctor retires) or they grow. When they grow, Dr. A becomes Drs. A and B. Then they become part of the Main Street Medical Practice. Which then merges to the Big City Practice. Which then becomes part of the Statewide Chain of Medical Offices. Or some variant thereof. And after 10 or 20 years, Drs. A and B have retired (or gone on to other jobs not involving direct patient contact, and not paid for by Statewide Chain, except maybe for their retirement fund) and nobody is left from the original office/administrative staff. So if you worked as the office manager when it was just Dr. A and 20 years later you want to get a reference, even though the company nominally still exists as a subsidiary of Statewide Chain, it is impossible to find anyone there who remembers you and it might be impossible to even get confirmation of employment dates.

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