How do I write a resume when I haven't worked in almost 17 years?

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Posted 6/24/2011 by busyscrapmomma in NSBR Board


PeaNut 4,426
May 2000
Posts: 2,174
Layouts: 7
Loc: Midwest

Posted: 6/24/2011 1:41:38 PM
Does the old job experience even matter? Do you still put it on a resume? Do I need to have an explanation of the lack of jobs?

I have held some volunteer positions with a few different organizations (Cub Scout sec/treas and PTO officer) Do these make a difference on a resume and where would you list them?

I really don't even know where to start. I have my education and job history info but am just overwhelmed coming up with a format that I like and making myself sounding marketable without sounding crazy LOL!

I really, really need to land a job here soon though so I definately need to plow through and get this done.

Thanks so much for any advice/tips you have to offer on how to make my resume work!

busy momma to my 4 sweeties!

pearl-clutching nitpicker

PeaNut 201,774
April 2005
Posts: 16,721
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Loc: gone to chemo with BethAnne

Posted: 6/24/2011 1:49:08 PM
I did it, and got the job, although that was 12 years ago. I have to admit, I did have some freelance experience in related fields during the years when I wasn't working full-time.

The main thing I wanted to tell you was that I organized my resume into areas of skills/competencies, and then listed my skills in those areas and how I achieved them, whether through education/work/volunteer activities. I also listed my relevant education and work experience in the traditional way, although pretty abbreviated, since they were old.

They seemed happy to have me, even though I'd been out of the job market for such a long time (20 years). Being willing to work for almost nothing may have made a difference. But my pay climbed by 50% over 5 years, so it was worthwhile.

good luck!

northern california

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."
--Bertrand Russell


PeaNut 371,428
April 2008
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Posted: 6/24/2011 1:49:44 PM
Start with your strongest selling point for the job you want. If it's your volunteer experience, then list that first. Then you can list your education, work experience, volunteer experience, etc.



PeaNut 169,459
September 2004
Posts: 4,649
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Loc: Maryland

Posted: 6/24/2011 1:55:01 PM
I am in a similar position. I'm looking, though I haven't found anything. I set my resume up so that my volunteer positions read as work experience. I listed my education first (around here the fact that I have a 4-yr degree makes a big difference), then my volunteer experience, treating each place just like I would a job, listing my duties and expertise, then I listed my largely irrelevant 10 year old work experience. I also briefly mention that I haven't worked due to caring for my young children in a cover letter.

The one interview I had, though, focused on that work experience and did not seem concerned with how long it had been since I was there.

***Christy, mom to a twelve year old boy, a ten year old girl, an eight year old girl and a five year old girl.

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PeaNut 21,328
September 2001
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Posted: 6/24/2011 1:56:22 PM
If you can visit your local library, there are tons of books out there that will walk you through making up a resume.


PeaNut 337,804
September 2007
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Loc: In the Know

Posted: 6/24/2011 3:03:31 PM
When I was in that position I googled 'how to write a resume' and then from there, there were a lot geared toward SAHMs or people who haven't worked in a long time. There's a lot of info out there.

I think what really got me the interview was that I had just finished two online classes. One for MS Word and one for MS Excel. I don't think they would have interviewed me if they thought my computer skills weren't current.

Oh, and I also put a footnote when I had a 4+ year gap between jobs that I had been staying home with our children, just so they'd know what had happened in those years.

It was on my fifth birthday that Papa put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Remember, my son, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm.'
- Sam Levenson


PeaNut 341,130
October 2007
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Loc: Midwest

Posted: 6/24/2011 3:04:27 PM
If you live by your alma mather, you can contact your career services office to find out if they service Alumni career needs.


PeaNut 512,122
June 2011
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Loc: IL

Posted: 6/24/2011 3:04:56 PM
if you will peamail me your info (don't have to include your contact info, that's ok) I will rewrite it for you.


PeaNut 70,692
February 2003
Posts: 4,764
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Loc: Seattle

Posted: 6/24/2011 3:28:44 PM
Thanks for asking this, I'm in the same boat and feel completely overwhelmed. I've been a SAHM for 13 years now and don't know where to begin, how to list all my PTA and volunteer work and make it relevant. It doesn't help that 3 of the last 4 companies I worked for before having kids have gone out of business and I have no way of contacting anyone for a reference. I like some of the ideas that have been posted and will be trying some of them.

Ever had a day like this?

Perfect Peaing

PeaNut 188,727
January 2005
Posts: 24,389
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Loc: AZ desert

Posted: 6/24/2011 3:38:38 PM
very carefully

"A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education."
- President Theodore Roosevelt

On June 28, 1787, as Governor of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Franklin hosted the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, where he moved:

"That henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning."

Franklin wrote April 17, 1787:

"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."

Benjamin Franklin wrote his epitaph:

"THE BODY of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN - Printer. Like the cover of an old book, Its contents torn out, And stripped of its lettering and gilding, Lies here, food for worms; Yet the work itself shall not be lost, For it will (as he believed) appear once more, In a new, And more beautiful edition, Corrected and amended By The AUTHOR."


PeaNut 512,122
June 2011
Posts: 1,414
Layouts: 0
Loc: IL

Posted: 6/24/2011 4:55:37 PM
You start with a bulleted list of your skills related to the kind of job you want to get. For just one example, say you were looking for a secretary type position, you would include yur typing speed. I dont know, depends on what kind of work you want to do. If you want to work in retial, then put in customer service.

So it would be

NAME (bold and bigger, 14 pt)
Address (12 pt, not bold)
email address
portfolio or website, if it's that kinda job

* skill 1 (extensive customer service, 10 years office maangement experience, etc)
* skill 2
* skill 3


put here if you have any, this format:
Name of Place or company or organization * city, state dates (rt flush)
Your title or a desriptive title
Some of your responsibilities and projects

Central Valley Parent-Teacher Organization * Snowville, MN Aug 2005 - present
Vice President (Volunteer)
Ran annual candy drive for 260 students with annual revenues of $12,000, organized monthly PTO meetings blah blah blah, managed blah blah blah, greeted, covered, administered, pick a word

anything not related, to show a work history with dates
Barista * Starbucks Coffee * Snowville, MN
Storyteller (Volunteer) * Snowville Public Library * Snowville, MN

Name of School * Location Date graduated
Name of Degree and Major

Basically, put your skills at top. Reorder them based on the job you are applying for. If the job is sitting in a room counting beans, don't put customer service skills on there. When you write a cover letter, explain you have been at home with the family but 1) active in the community or 2) doing volunteer work or 3) taking classes online or in a school or something for the past umpteen years but you are looking to go back to work.

anyway HTH somebody


PeaNut 512,122
June 2011
Posts: 1,414
Layouts: 0
Loc: IL

Posted: 6/24/2011 5:23:06 PM
If you have no work references at all I would say you need to have some kind of supervisory reference. Saying this as someone who just hired someone with a group of people all involved and what they were concerned with.

How to get one - you may have to volunteer for the summer. Local public library, local hospital, do a project for your local history museum, something. Something where you are showing up as scheduled and doing something for someone who works there, that person will be a refernece for you. Every dinky little town has a local history museum or a library. Explain you want to get back into working, you want to do some community service to get back in the swing, do they have a project you could do for a few months?

It doesn't have to be a big thing. I volunteered last summer for 2-3 hrs on Fridays eveyr 2 weeks at a place, and that went on my resume, the hiring manager specifically asked about it when she interviewed me. I asked the guy I did the work for, would you be a reference and he said yes. Then he could answer questions about me like, what kind of work did I do, what was I good at, was I reliable, would he hire me again, etc.

If you (anyone) can just figure out your skills and write them down in a list, skills you have from your volunteer commitments, that will help you a lot.

Managing money
Organizing events
Working with teams of people
Coming up with ideas and pulling them off

I volunteered for a local Boars Head (christmas dinner show) at my local church and managed the children who served the meal. It was just one month a year, for 2 shows. But I could say I had managed that whole aspect, kept track of who was doing what, arranged costumes, coordinated etc. So that kind of experience helps and it was one month a year, part time.


PeaNut 512,122
June 2011
Posts: 1,414
Layouts: 0
Loc: IL

Posted: 6/24/2011 5:23:53 PM
sorry about my typos, typing is def not one of my skills! hope you can read what I wrote ok.


PeaNut 4,426
May 2000
Posts: 2,174
Layouts: 7
Loc: Midwest

Posted: 6/24/2011 6:08:33 PM
I'm glad to hear that I am not the only one so anxious over this. It seems like such a difficult thing when it shouldn't be, maybe it is the whole taking the big leap back into working that has me more worked up.

I really appreciate all of the advice and welcome any other suggestions. I will definately be using much of this!

Meridion--Thank you, I will email you when I get things a little better put together.

busy momma to my 4 sweeties!


PeaNut 104,049
August 2003
Posts: 3,574
Layouts: 0

Posted: 6/26/2011 9:49:36 PM
I just skimmed over the responses so maybe someone mentioned this already, but this is when you do what's called a functional resume. It emphasizes skills, and de-emphasizes work experience.

Deigh PEA
G'ma to five adorable grandkids!

PeaNut 124,219
January 2004
Posts: 7,338
Layouts: 0
Loc: Louisiana

Posted: 6/27/2011 9:35:35 AM
Yes, the old jobs need to be included. Also you put down the years where you stayed home to take care of the kids, any volunteering, etc. The new employers need to know how long you worked at each job and why you were out of a job for so long.

Good luck!

ETA: Volunteering helped my daughter get a job. She'd been volunteering a lot and the employer said, "Well, it's about time you get paid for your time."

Don't worry about the people in your past; there's a reason why they didn't make it to your future.

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PeaNut 468,133
May 2010
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Layouts: 0

Posted: 6/27/2011 11:20:10 AM
Meridion is right, translate your volunteer jobs into business terms: Organizing and running a committee = project management, teamwork, and organizational skills. Did you bring the project in on time and within/under budget? You can meet deadlines and manage budgets. Did you use software to track any of it? Specify.

Current/good computer skills should be played up. There are plenty of online classes, many of them free or low cost.
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