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"I have graduated from university and i have been working for various companies for the 3 years since graduation."

Does this sentence actually mean the person has worked for various companies in the 3 years since graduation and the present perfect continuous is used because it says "for the 3 years since"?

Or does it mean they have been working for various companies simultaneously for the 3 years since graduation?

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As a native English speaker I would not be confident of the interpretation; we are not reliably precise in our use of tenses in such sentences.

If I heard

I worked for various companies for the 3 years since graduation

I would tentatively assume that this was a sequence of non-overlapping employments

I have been working for various companies for the 3 years since graduation

I think has some implication of overlapping, perhaps part-time or freelance work.

However, if I needed to know which was the case I would ask for clarification.

In a formal letter or résumé I would avoiding leaving room for interpretation

I have gained experience in full-time employment ...

I have been working as freelance designer for a number of clients ...

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    I have been working for various companies could suggest short term contracts where they have several clients that they work for at different times (freelance work) but not simultaneously. I would definitely use working in this case as the association with the clients still exist and are ongoing.
    – Brad
    Mar 17, 2021 at 12:48
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    @anouk, yes I agree with your interpretation.
    – djna
    Mar 17, 2021 at 15:28
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    Although both could be true, what I was pertaining to was a situation where you have a client base. Who you, do for each, regular but not continuous work. The work being carried out usually consecutively not simultaneously. Obviously you client base will vary and hopefully expand over time. However the fact remains you are still "working" for these clients albeit irregularly.
    – Brad
    Mar 19, 2021 at 1:14
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    @anouk this just shows how difficult it is to be both succinct and unambiguous. A simple selection of tense ( " worked" v "working") is not enough to encapsulate all the possible nuances. If we feel that our listener needs to know the detail then we may need to elaborate, to state explicitly some details. However we run the risk of being boring and pedantic. I tend to favour brevity, and then be open to adding clarification as requested.
    – djna
    Mar 19, 2021 at 6:44
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    @anouk the phrase is ambiguous, it could mean either. Iif absolute clarity is needed, then we must use more explanation. Out text becomes wordy if we need to be precise, especially when there are so many possible nuances of relationship between a practitioner and a customer. "I had a a client base of some 15 companies for whom I delivered a total of 25 projects over a period of 18 months, and then one such customer engaged me as a full-time employee for a further 18 months." - I doubt very much that the reader cares about the detail. "I had a number of clients over a period of three years."
    – djna
    Mar 19, 2021 at 15:46

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