"I have x years of professional job experience."
April 24, 2012 1:16 PM   Subscribe

I've been employed as a full-time web developer for a couple of years. However, I've been doing it as a student and a hobbyist for a lot longer. Which amount of time should I indicate on my resume as my official "length of experience"?

For example, I worked part time throughout college doing nearly the same thing I do now, but I'm not sure if that constitutes professional experience. It feels incorrect to list a part-time student job alongside post-college salaried jobs.

I don't want to accidentally mislead potential employers on such a basic resume item, but I also don't want to downplay the fact that I learned the bulk of my skills through running personal sites during my teenage years! Obviously this is best discussed in an interview, but I'd like to boil down the length of my experience to one clear sentence I can put in the first section of my resume.
posted by theraflu to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From what I have seen, job postings ask for either a minimum threshold or a range of years of experience ("2+ years", or "5-7 years").

It's up to then to judge your qualifications, so go ahead and claim teenage years in which you were working on web development seriously. If they want to discount it, they can, but you want to start as high as you can. It's easier for them to subtract years after they read your resume than for you to add them.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 1:40 PM on April 24, 2012

If I was looking at your resume and I cared about years of experience, which I don't, I would expect you to count the college job in that figure. I would only want you to count the high school sites if the websites were significant (i.e. more than just a blog or a personal homepage -- something on the level a business would do with some negative consequences of scrapping the site and starting over.)
posted by michaelh at 1:40 PM on April 24, 2012

If the sites you created are portfolio-worthy, I'd include them. You may want to add a "volunteer" or "personal sites" section to your resume to indicate that distinction. When filling out a form that asks specifically how many years of HTML (for example) experience (I had to do this recently), I generally include my extra 2 years of hobbyist & part-time experience.

It seems like web development is particularly prone to this sort of thing, maybe because it's so new, maybe because it's easy to get started? With luck, eventually "the owner's nephew who knows a little FrontPage" actually gets good at web design. :)
posted by epersonae at 2:53 PM on April 24, 2012

In my opinion, if you got paid it's professional experience.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:30 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

It counts. I counted time I did in High School and I've never once been questioned for it. The dates are clear on my resume as well. If anything it makes you look smarter since you were doing professional work before you graduated.
posted by airways at 4:42 PM on April 24, 2012

It feels incorrect to list a part-time student job alongside post-college salaried jobs

If your part time job was relevant to the position for which you are applying its totally kosher to put it in your resume just mark it as a part time position. Its pretty obvious which jobs are campus jobs etc and a hiring manager can totally weight it appropriately.

Similarly a lot of people have side projects in programming its becoming hip these days in Silicon Valley for people to have a link to their github profile to show the side projects they're working on. If you have significant side (or personal) work then its also acceptable to carve out a section in your resume for "Personal Projects".
posted by bitdamaged at 5:11 PM on April 24, 2012

As a web dev who might be interviewing people soon, I think you're coming at this from the wrong angle.

I think it depends on what you mean by "a couple of years". If you've only been employed full-time for a year and a half, it seems dishonest to say you have 5 1/2 years of experience because you maintained your college's blog for four years. Any decent HR rep will be able to size up your experience level by skimming your resume, and if you're wildly outside the range that they're looking for, you'll be out. So I think you're better off being honest. "Years of experience" translates, to me, to years working full-time in a similar position to the one you are applying for.

That said, if you're worried about job postings that say "must have N+ years of experience with X", don't be. The number matters much less than the type of experience. So even if you've only been in the field for N-1 years, and you want to apply for a job listed as requiring N+ years experience, don't be afraid to apply anyway. Use your cover letter to address why you think you'd be uniquely qualified for the position. (Cover letters are way underutilized for this purpose. Remember, a cover letter is the only part of your resume where you can write in your own voice directly to your prospective coworkers. Use that space to set yourself apart!) The numbers are just very loose guidelines set by HR reps and most of the people that will interview you don't care about them too much.
posted by deathpanels at 8:59 PM on April 24, 2012

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