The Right Way to Archive Career History

Close-up of a resume with pen and glasses on the table.

Last week, a friend encouraged me to submit my resume to a nonprofit organization. She told me its executive director began searching for a new grant writer. Years ago, I would have dreaded the burden of updating my resume, but I was ready for it last week.

See, I used to think a resume was a "dump" for all of my work and educational experience. The more experience I had, the more pages I needed to capture it all. So, I turned in these four- to five-page resumes when I applied for jobs.

Ten years ago, I picked up a helpful tip about archiving my career-related history. Credit for this tip goes to the good people at "Manager Tools."

I learned resumes should not be a one-stop document for dumping anything and everything career related. Instead, I discovered how the use of a wholly separate document was better for capturing and archiving all of my career experience. Then, using the data from that one document made it easier for building a resume customized to a specific job opportunity.

How to Archive Your Career History

It’s easy to get started. If you’ve got a resume already, simply copy and paste it into a new word processing document like Word or Pages. If not, create a new document anyway. Name it something like "Career History Sheet" or something else you prefer. Save it somewhere easy to access. I store mine in my Dropbox account. Now, it is ready for capturing any and all work experience, volunteer experience, and educational experience.

Remember, this document is meant for your eyes, or ears, only. Do not use it as your resume.

What to Capture

Capture all of your career-related experiences in your new career history sheet. Over time, it will grow into a valuable career archive.

I enter the newest info at the top of the sheet, so as I scroll down the page, my oldest experiences can be reviewed as I get to the end of the document.

Type your work experiences. For example, type the dates, places, job positions, job responsibilities, and any accomplishments. Do this for each of the jobs you have held.

Work Experience Example

Here’s a fictional work experience example:

Work tenure: January 2014 to May 2016

Company: Office System Professionals

Contact: Jane Smith, Vice President – Sales Phone: (555) 555-5555

Job title: Sales Associate


Schedule sales appointments. Conduct sales presentations. Identify customer needs. Offer value-added products and services. Maintain customer files through data management system. Promote customer retention. Provide monthly sales reports to management.


Increased sales revenues by 35% from January 2014 to January 2015. Earned four Salesperson of the Month Awards during tenure. Increased customer retention by 65% by creating an online survey.

The above example represents a basic format for capturing your data. Modify it for your own needs and preferences. Follow this kind of example for volunteer experience and educational experience too.

By the way, capturing your college work is important. But, do remember to make a record of other educational courses or seminars you complete too.

Be sure to record any of your assistive technology training as well. If you spend a day or two learning JAWS or OpenBook down at your local Lighthouse, record it.

How to Use It

The career history sheet you create for yourself is a living document. Update it when jobs change, when you volunteer your time, and when your education and training grows. Review and edit it on a consistent basis.

The information in your career history sheet makes it easier to customize resumes for specific job positions. It will provide you all the content you need to create one that is sharp, concise, and no longer than a page or two. Pick the most relevant experience to create an effective resume that best matches the job position for which you are applying.

For instance, I worked for a car dealership after high school. I drove cars around the car lot for the service department. I would not place that info on my resume if I intended to apply for an executive director position at a nonprofit agency though.

Are those groans I hear?

Yes, I know this creates more work for you to do. I’ll admit it was tough for me to get this started, but it’s been easier to manage my career information and to respond quickly to job opportunities.

Believing a resume is the place to archive career history becomes a headache for you and the people who review your resume. The enormous amount of info that gets jammed into them is a turn off to recruiters and hiring managers.

Creating a single document to archive career history is a smarter, more effective option. Think of your career history sheet as a running story and think of your resume as highlights of that incredible story.

Do you have questions? Do you do something like this already? Click on the comment button and let me know!