How far back should the employment history on one's CV go?

As you may have guessed from the title, I’ve started to look for another job. I have concerns about the way the company I work for is being run (“We made a cargo-ship full of money in profit this year, but we still need to get rid of some people. By the way, you have to do even more stuff and we’re not giving you that pay-rise we promised because that affects our bottom line, cargo-ship full of profit money not withstanding”) and with some of the changes in my life of late (ie, getting married, looking to buy a house, etc) I’m not sure I’m ever going to go anywhere where I currently am- hence, the looking for a better job part.

I’ve been working here for a couple of years now, and last updated my CV back in January 2006 after I got a promotion and my duties at work changed.

Anyhoo, my work history in Australia dates back over 8 years, and most of those jobs were of the “Working at Maccas/Working in Pubs while I was studying” variety. Most of the jobs only lasted six months or so, as they were never intended to be permanent work (just a means of keeping food on the table, a roof over our heads, and so on), but I realised today that including 4 years of McJobs looks a bit dodgy on a “Professional” or “Management” resume, So I’m thinking of trimming it back to the last 5 years (which would cover about 4 jobs).

Is there a sort of agreed standard on this sort of thing?

Yep. That should do it.

Your employment history should be complete, but that doesn’t mean you can’t conflate a group. Something like:

1990-95 Variety of part time service-sector jobs while at university.

Or

1995-2002 Computer Contractor. Worked as a computer contractor doing PC support work in the defence, heavy industry, and aerospace sectors. Major clients included…

Mine goes back to 2003, when I got my first “professional” role. After that, it just says: “Various fixed-term administrative contracts - details available on request”.

I teach college and help student write resumes.
One thing I suggest, especially for people who have worked in the service industry for many years (bar tending/waitress, etc.) is to lump that all together.

Instead of listing every place and date, list:

Service Industry From 2001 to 2006
Worked at various locations in customer service. Duties included taking inventory, ordering stock, cashier, making bank deposits, hiring of staff and dealing with customer complaints. Worked at such locations as Outback, Bill’s Steak House, IHOP, Joe’s Crab Shack and the Marriot Inn Hotel Restaurant.

(Poor example, but you get the drift)

By lumping them all together, you get all the basic skills listed, without dwelling on the fact that you have done basically the same thing in 5 or 6 or more locations - and you don’t take up two pages listing those locations and same duties.

I had a period like that, during which I also did several freelance jobs, so I just labelled it “Contract work” and listed my major clients and the projects I worked on for them. Seems to go down well.