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Leaving Self-Employment Off Of Your Resume Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit


I am a graphic designer with 10 years experience. Now I'm interested in looking for a new job (in the same field) with a bigger company, so I can move up the ladder. During the past 5 years, I have also worked freelance part time from home. It's a registered business, but it doesn't bring in major money - I do jobs here and there. I enjoy keeping this business though as I am able to work on projects with people in different countries and complete projects that I have never done before, thus giving me more experience. My question is: should I be listing my part time freelance business on my resume?

I don't want employers to think that I may be too busy or in competition with them. I know some businesses don't like their employees doing the same thing on the side! I don't want this to be the reason why I don't get calls back. The main reason I would like to list this would be to show that I can take charge of projects from start to finish and be in complete contact with the client and successfully develop projects in all types of categories. If you do suppose I list this on my resume, do you have any suggestions on what I should say? Thanks for your help.

Katrina D., Canada
This is a good question, Katrina. I can see how it would be tempting to impress a new employer with your full range of skills and experience. It could certainly enhance your credibility and give you an advantage. You are right, as well; to observe that there might be a downside to listing your self-employment experience: it could send some wrong signals about you and maybe even damage your employment prospects.

Here's how an employer might see things here. On the one hand, your entrepreneurial spirit might simply indicate that you are self-motivated, determined to succeed, independent and creative. Plus it has given you some international experience and client management skills. All of which should be ringing up brownie points in their eyes.

Only it's not always this straightforward. From an employer's viewpoint, your self-employment might be interpreted as follows:

- You may be less likely to be a content, productive employee, if bounded within an established organization.
- Because maybe you will get frustrated easily with bureaucracy.
- Or not take kindly to having a boss directly overseeing you.

In their darkest scenarios, you become that one rogue person who steals the organization's info - and clients - when you inevitably leave to start your own business again.

This raises the issue of business cards, and what your ''transitional'' version should look like. Plain vanilla is actually just fine for job hunting. Your name, e-mail address, a phone number where you may be reached and the city you live in. That's all you need. You can also add your credentials and a professional identifier such as ''Marketing Specialist'' or ''Administrative Professional.'' However try not to make the card look like you run a small business, or else you could raise the risk of being dismissed as a serious candidate.

Does this mean that bragging about your self-employment is completely off the shelf when job hunting? In my opinion, if it adds directly to your chances of getting hired and it won't put you in a negative light, then consider opening up during interviews. If not, simply keep it off your resume. And then use those special skills you acquired, while working on your own, in ways that turn you into an ''entrepreneur'' who gets things done.

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