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What should I highlight on my resume – my unrelated work experience or my related classroom experience?

accountingWenjing from Seattle University asked:

I earned my Bachelor’s in Accounting last year. I have two years experience as office assistant, five years as retail clerk and three months as tax preparer. What is your advice if I want to pursue an accounting-related position? Should I add more classroom experience on my resume since it is more related to the career I want to pursue, or it is better to focus on my work experience over my classroom experience?

Hi Wenjing –

If you have a degree in accounting and you wish to pursue a career in accounting, your resume should highlight those aspects of your qualifications (education, skills, and characteristics) that illustrate your ability to work in accounting.  It’s really that simple.

Your resume is a one page advertisement for YOU.  How you use the space on your resume tells the reader what you think is important for them to know about you.  If you use a lot of space emphasizing your unrelated work experience and you minimize the space you use emphasizing your related experience, you are telling the reader that your related experience is less important than your unrelated experience.

Your coursework in accounting (particularly the applied – non theoretical – coursework) is what will make you a strong candidate to work in accountancy. Highlight that information.  Tell that story.

Your unrelated work experience shows that you are dependable, show up for work, understand the difference between the college world and the work world, are disciplined, have good time management skills, and a variety of other things about your character, work ethic an experience.  These are all important qualities, characteristics and experiences, but they don’t have anything directly to do with accounting.

This is not an “either/or” situation, it’s a “both, but in proper proportion to your objectives” situation.

Remember, your resume is a marketing document, not an informational document. You must be intentional in what you include/leave out and emphasize/de-emphasize.

Good Luck!

matt-signature

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3 Comments

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