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The Key to Finding a Job After a Long Career Break

Dear J.T. & Dale: I am an IT professional with more than 20 years' experience. I took a career break in 2005 to care for my mother and eventually wind up her estate. In all, that lasted 30 months. I then returned to look for work in 2008, just when the job market hit rock bottom. Since then I have been unable to find work. I would like your advice on how best to word this in my resume. -Tony DALE: Well, Tony, I hate to say it, but we need to face facts: There is no best way. No unsolicited resume showing you've been out of the work force since 2005 is going to make it into the "To Be Interviewed" stack. In IT, perhaps more than any other field, being out of the work force for even half a year can be a major concern for employers. They worry your knowledge and skills will have fallen behind. And that is no idle concern - I just looked at a chronology of tech events and saw the last year you were employed, 2005, was the year that the first YouTube video was uploaded and Pandora was launched. You already were out of the work force when the first tweet was tweeted and when the HD DVD, the iPhone and the Wii were introduced. And I'm looking at just consumer products, not all the deeper IT transformations that were going on. J.T.: I hate to say it, but even if you've been keeping current, hiring managers are going to have doubts, and you are going to have to sell against negative assumptions. The answer, as it is so often, is networking. The more conversations you can have about current technology, the better the chances they'll see you are up to speed and are capable of handling the job. I suggest you start by going back to former employers. Reconnect with managers and peers to see what they're working on now. DALE: You may be able to re-immerse yourself by doing project work, or helping out friends or co-workers. Being able to list current experience on your resume will bridge the experience gap while giving you recent work to talk about during your job search conversations. J.T.: Make it a goal in those conversations to find out what the latest hot topics/projects are. As you become able to converse knowledgeably about the latest changes, you can position yourself as up-to-date in spite of your hiatus from the IT world. Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Career break key image from Shutterstock