One of the things employers look for on a resume is whether or not you have been consistently working; that is do you have the dreaded ‘job gap’ on your resume. With the recent high unemployment numbers it is not uncommon for there to be small gaps but what about when you haven’t worked in years? Whether you stayed home to raise your children, cared for a family member during an illness, or decided to come out of retirement, there is no way to hide this gap (and you shouldn’t try) but there are some things you can do to make yourself as attractive a candidate as possible.
When it comes to your resume it can be a little tricky to deal with an extended gap in employment. Do you address it? Do you ignore it? Do you explain it? How much do you tell them? Is it really their business? There are so many reasons why a person might take extended time off from their career some of which might include time off to care for dependents, personal medical leave, caring for a parent, or deciding to come out of retirement.
Regardless of the reason it can be a challenge to make your way back into the workforce. However, knowing the challenges you may face can help you prepare for them and meet them head on. Additionally, if you can anticipate when you will return to the workforce there are some things you can do to make your job search a little bit easier.
If you are in an industry that makes frequent advances and is constantly changing your best bet is to remain up to date by taking classes or honing your skills by freelancing or volunteering in some capacity in your field. This will keep your foot in the door and show potential employers that you maintained an interest in what it is you want to do when you return to the workforce. But what if you haven’t done that? Your best bet is to plan ahead as much as possible. If you have an estimated timeframe of when you want to begin working enroll in some refresher classes, get your certifications up to date, and read up on any developments in your field. Having this up to date training on your resume will be a bonus for employers.
Using a resume with a functional format is not going to hide the fact that you haven’t worked in a while but it will bring the attention to the skills, qualifications, and value you possess rather than having the first thing they see be the fact that you haven’t worked since 1998. Whereas a chronological resume highlights each job in the order you held it, a functional resume downplays this aspect and instead focuses on your talents and abilities.
Even though it is secondary on a functional resume, you will have to address your employment on your resume. You do not need to go into great detail about what you were doing during this time. A simple heading and the dates will be enough. Some ideas for expressing this time:
- Family leave
- Personal sabbatical
- Cared for elderly parent
- Family commitment
It will also help not to think of yourself as not having worked during this time but instead to look at what you did during this time as non-traditional work. If you were raising a family you were probably using such skills as organization, creativity, budget management, and time management. Caring for an elderly parent or sick family member exercised your communication skills, scheduling, and multi-tasking. You need to examine what you did during this time and pull out the transferrable skills for your resume.
You will not be the first or last candidate to apply for a position with extended gaps in your employment. And while it may be difficult to re-enter the workforce being prepared can lessen the difficulties you may face. A resume that highlights your value, a positive outlook on where you want to go, and the desire to make it happen will show a prospective employer that you are ready to get back in the game.
by Megan Koehler