Strategies For Handling Employment Gaps

ResumeRecently a friend of mine decided to go back to work.  She’d taken ten years off to raise her kids, and now that they were in full time school she was looking for something to do.  But, she was terrified.  “Why would anyone hire me when I’ve been doing nothing for ten years?” she asked me.

That’s where I stopped her.  We went through the last ten years, one year at a time.  What we discovered was that she had been extremely busy over those ten years, not only raising her own kids, but watching other children as well.  She also did an astronomical amount of volunteer work.   So, how does someone who has “been doing nothing” write a resume?

There are a number of reasons people have periods of unemployment: raising kids, travelling, illness, economic downturn, extended leave of absence, and the like.  When it comes to writing a resume, or your LinkedIn profile, it’s important to put together the most cohesive representation of your experience and skills as you can.  That means learning how to word things that articulates your value to potential employers.  Here are some strategies to do that:

Label your experience.  Think back during your time of unemployment and consider everything that kept you busy during that time.  Were you renovating your house, taking care of a sick family member, or going to school?  Whatever it is that you were up to, plot it on a timeline so you can see it.  Then pull out the experiences that were real skill builders and label them: renovating becomes Project Manager, tending to the ill becomes Personal Support Worker, and training becomes Professional Development.

Lump little jobs into one job title.  If you have several temporary jobs lump them into one label, such as Self-employed, Consultant, or Seasonal Employment.  This shows a continuity of experience without a choppy list of employers.

Just use the years.  Instead of using the day and month you started and ended a job, just use the year.  This may be the oldest trick in the book for masking gaps in employment, so be ready to answer inquiries during an interview of what you were up to in the gaps.

Limit your experience.  If you have a long job history with a large gap in-between you could limit your experience to recent employment.  If you have lots of short-term work, you could only include the most important positions on your resume so the gaps are not so noticeable when the years overlap.

Make use of your cover letter.  Your cover letter is a great place to paint the overall picture for inquiring employers.  It’s where you can use complete sentences to spell out how your experience, including paid and unpaid responsibilities, has set you apart as an ideal candidate.

This article was written by Miranda Vande Kuyt, a blogger for the My ESC website. Find out more about Miranda through her website: http://mirandavandekuyt.wordpress.com.

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