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Resumes Should Tell it All

I was at the University of Denver’s campus last week, meeting with students. I talked about my career path and its many turns. Looking back, the turns that seemed the most discouraging were always the ones that took me the farthest and turned out the best. I took a lot of chances with many of my career decisions, and I also ended up taking a few jobs because I had to.

One of the discussions that came up with the students had to do with advice the soon-to-be grads had been given by career advisors. The advice was to omit commonplace jobs from their resumes that had nothing to do with the financial careers they were seeking. The students had been advised not to list lawn mowing, for instance.

I disagree. Some of my best experience came early in life, waiting tables. I look for restaurant work on younger people’s resumes, because I know from first-hand experience that if you have ever waited tables, you understand the equation between customer satisfaction and your compensation. It doesn’t matter if the burger is cold because you wasted time, or because the cook did, you are accountable for it to the customer, and the customer won’t give you much of a tip if you don’t figure that out. Working in a stock room, bagging groceries, or sweeping floors in a movie theater all have a direct connection in the work-to-make-money link.

Some of my toughest lessons were as a car-hop for an A&W restaurant. The car-hop had to carry loaded trays of root beer and food out to cars and stick them on the windows. This made for some very exciting moments, when the tray wasn’t quite latched onto the window or, my favorite, when someone rolled their window down by accident after the tray was on it. They make the car-hops pay for any of those cute glass root beer mugs that don’t come back with the tray, so every trip out to the car was a mental exercise, to memorize the number of mugs I delivered. Once there was a car full of guys who ordered more and more root beers, to confuse me on the mug count. They finally flipped the little light to show they were ready to pull out. They were suddenly in a hurry, and I did a quick count. I knew a mug was missing. They denied it. I reached in and took the keys out of the ignition. They produced the mug. It was not as easy being a car hop as it looked. My first salary was ten cents an hour—I am not kidding. We were supposed to make all of our money in tips. Maybe that’s where I got the idea for our sales directors’ compensation, which is very much commission-based.

I had another job as an elf at JC Penney during the holidays. That was an over-rated job if I’ve ever seen one. It looks fun, but you have no idea what people expect of elves. I was once handed a little kid, and the mom said “he’s about to throw up!” Boy, did he. People leave their kids at the elf hut and go down the mall for cocktails for a few hours. Some people bring their gifts from all over the mall to the elf and try to talk their way into free gift wrap. JC Penney is a very nice, family-oriented department store and I learned a lot about customer service and doing my best no matter what. My elf outfit was not sexy; it was dorky. The worst disappointment of all from elfing was that the guys would come by all the time, see me in the dorky tunic with pointy toed slippers, and walk right past me to the ice fairy princess who tended Santa’s throne.

Not every college student lands a wonderful internship that looks good on a resume. What matters is that you work, no matter what the job, so that you’re getting experience. You might not think those experiences matter, but they all come into play someday. I like to see experience on a resume, it tells me you’d rather be working to build your maturity, common sense, and character than sitting around doing nothing.



As an old school appraiser with 40 years in the business, most of that running my own business, the comments about resumes really hit home. I too have always felt that "background" had a lot to do with ones character, and ability. It's all relative. Read President Lincoln's biography and President Roosevelt comments about trying and failing. At the risk of sounding old fashion, to fall down and fail, and to get back up to try again, is not failure, but a learning, character building experience. Pity the individual that didn't try something out of fear of failure. Fond memories of delivering papers, fetching golf balls at a driving range, cleaning up at a butcher shop, bus boy at the local eatery, cleaning bricks, working two or three jobs when times were tough. You can learn a lot from working on a ranch, when a cow craps on your boot, it's not personnal. A nurses aid learns a lot about life fast. And some of this is when you trying to support a young family. The good old days? Not always. You did what you had to do. Good luck, and God Bless all of the young new appraisers.


A fantastic write-up straight from the heart and giving insights into the experiences each job provides. While I was in grad school, I worked part time in the cafeteria, initially I was frustrated with the type of work, later I realized how much team work matters in delivering a good dining experience to the customer. Thank you for the article, I will pass it on to my aspiring soon-to-graduate student friends.

I am so glad you shared your

I am so glad you shared your work experiences. I have gained even more insight and respect for you and Allonhill. Thank you!

Elf costume

This was a great read and the information is valuable! I often get asked by my nieces and nephews what to put on a resume and what not to. Now my answer will be clear and I have an Elf story to tell them about.

Resumes Should Tell It All

Thanks Sue for the tremendous information on this blog. Recruiters do tend to tell candidates that they should only go back ten years to avoid overwhelming the recruiter or client. It's difficult to prove to people that I have seven years banking and twenty five years legal experience if you look at my current resume. I am going home and add every position I ever held.

A lot of my writing, event planning, organizational, co-chairing, managerial,leadership and serving on Boards came from volunteering (9 years) at the church that I served on as an ordained Deaconess. I will make sure that I include all relevant information on my resume.

Thank you so very, very much for this blog post.

Have an awesome day.

I had the pleasure of

I had the pleasure of listening to you speak at DU last week. I fully agree that hard work is valuable, and there is always something to be gained from it. I, too, held many types of jobs while in high school and working my way through college. They were not glamorous, they were exhausting, and they paid very little (cashier at Little Caesar's Pizza, waitress at Ponderosa Steak House, Cashier at a clothing store in the mall, to name a few.) However, the lessons learned through those positions have stayed with me. I learned that my rewards were a direct result of my efforts, and if I wanted to get ahead, I better work harder. I also learned that whining is for babies, and no one wants to listen to a whiner. I agree fully with your statement about customer satisfaction. As a waiter, it didn't matter whose fault it was. If the food was cold or the order was wrong, I would take the fall and possibly lose a tip. I, too,learned right away to head those things off at the pass. As a Recruiting professional, I agree that recent college grads should include this type of experience on their resumes. Even if it doesn't directly relate to the positions they are seeking after college, there is much to be said for the lessons and values that are gained from such work.

You want what job?

I would like to augment Sue's comments on experience and encourage recruiters to view experience laterally. An individual with a psychology background might make an excellent recruiter as an individual with writing or editing experience, meaning deadlines and details, would make an excellent auditor. The ability to learn and comprehend can be just as valuable than what knowledge one may have already acquired. A diverse work history may also show that the candidate in question has the ability to be flexible, to adapt, and to be both curious and interested in new areas.

Remember that next time someone (like me, maybe) sends in an application. A person's paper trail tells only part of the story.

Great Feedback

It is so refreshing to see someone address this issue. I have 15+ years of executive experience and one of my favorite jobs was working at a gift store in the local mall in high school. It is not on my resume, but I learned more at that job in a day about customer service, than in a lifetime behind a desk. Now I apply those lessons to better the services of the company I work for.

Since starting my job search, I have been told my resume needs to rewritten, stripped of information or limited on information. I agree with your philosophy on this topic. I want to show I am a hard worker and understand every job contributes to the success of the company, not just the top level.

Thank you for sharing and sorry about the elf costume.