Got gaps in your work history? How do you explain them to potential employers? Career experts J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten answer the following question from a reader... Dear J.T. and Dale, How do you handle gaps in your resume? I worked before I had my children, then did jobs that allowed me to be home with them, and even had my own business. I’m going to college for an accounting degree and look forward to working again, but I’ve gotten looks from interviewers about gaps in work history. - Cheryl The first thing you need to do is get in the right mindset, according to Dauten. “Look at the people you’re going to be competing for jobs with,” said Dauten. “Most of them have very little experience. They would LOVE to have gaps in their work history. They don’t even HAVE a work history!” Once you’ve done that, then you need to figure out the best way to present your experience to employers. The best way to do that is to connect the dots for them - make it easy for employers to understand WHY you have the gaps and WHY it’s not going to be an issue. “If you take all of those past jobs that you’ve held and pull out the pieces that involve accounting, you can connect the dots for that employer and show them that this is all part of a plan,” said O’Donnell. According to O’Donnell, doing this will give employers a lot more confidence that you know what you’re doing, and you’re just being very strategic about it. So, got gaps in your work history? You want to present a logical progression that makes it clear that all of that experience you have to offer, even if it has gaps, has lead you here for a reason. Want to ask J.T. & Dale a question? Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do you compensate on your resume for a gap in employment? Naturally, hiring managers want to see consistency; they want to see a work history that does not contain gaps. Things happen, though; there are personal and professional situations that sometimes come up – things that are beyond your control. Related: How To Mention Unrelated Work Experience On Your Resume So, what do you do if you have resume gaps? You probably won’t have the opportunity to explain it, especially if you have applied online or are submitting career documents via web-based or other anonymous means. How do you present yourself in a compelling manner even with the gap? Here are some tips:
Use A Hybrid Resume StyleA hybrid resume style is particularly effective because it will allow you to bring relevant and results oriented data to the top of the document. For example, after you draft a summary and a core competency section - with effective words and phrases to help with key word search, you can create a ‘Highlights of Accomplishments’ section. It is in this section that you can draw upon experiences from previous roles. It will allow you to reveal notable accomplishments and the results derived to quickly engage the reader before she comes to the section of the document where professional experiences and actual dates are referenced. Given that you have a short window of time to make a compelling statement, use the highlights of accomplishments area to quickly demonstrate your skills. Capture five to six statements in bullet point fashion in this area to allow for easy reading. You also might consider making the first part of the statement in bold. This will draw the reader’s eye to the section.
Just List The YearsYou don’t need to reference the months on your resume. It is OK to just list the years. If the gap is short this will help bridge it. Is this deceptive? No. You are going to fill out an application for employment where you will divulge the exact of employment. I am not suggesting that you try to mislead a potential employer. The idea is to ‘get the interview.' Once there, you can explain the reasons for the lapse in employment. At that time, you will be able to sell yourself and demonstrate why you are right for the job.
Use The CoverThis is a perfect example of why a cover letter is important. A cover letter will allow you to explain a gap. This is not something that can be done on the resume. The cover letter is the ideal place to help the reader understand you took time off to care for an elderly or ailing parent, spent time writing a book, or some other personal issue. Your explanation can be brief; the cover will enable you to quickly provide a plausible explanation.
Omit One Or More JobsDepending upon how long you have been in the workplace, you don’t necessarily need to list all of your experiences, particularly if you have a lengthy work history. Jobs that extend beyond 15 years can be referenced in a previous experience section where you can reference Company name and title. Jobs beyond that time can be left off completely
Use Your NetworkLeveraging your network is a great way to obtain a position, especially when you have a gap. Who better to vouch for your credibility and value than people you know? A strong reputation will speak for itself, and your network can be there to help and support you during your search.
VolunteerA great way to remain involved and connected is through volunteer activities, which can take up as much time as you let them. Use time off wisely. If you have been downsized or fired, volunteering will enable you to work with people from diverse backgrounds in a collaborative environment. Volunteer work can be highly challenging and will allow you to provide critical information during an interview. Your commitment to yourself is a critical component to any job search. Utilize all of your tools and resources to present yourself in the best possible manner. This post was originally published at an earlier date.
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There’s a lot of advice out there about how to address gaps in employment and how to avoid appearing like a job hopper on resumes, but what about individuals who have kept to one employer for a large chunk of their work history? Related: Gaping Gap? How To Plug Holes In Your Work History Employers looking at these types of applicants have general concerns, like whether the applicant is able to adapt to change, and whether any progress has been made in terms of building news skills and experiences that could beneficially apply to a new workplace. Resumes may be carefully scrutinized on those areas. Ensure your resume stands out and addresses these common concerns with the following tips below!
Show progress within the company.Typically you’d list on your resume your employer, your title, and dates of employment. Follow this format to list the different positions you’ve held with the same employer. Specify the dates of employment in each position and treat each position as a different job, allocating the same amount of space to focus on successes. This helps to demonstrate you’ve continued to advance and progress in your career with each position.
Indicate increased responsibilities.Even if you did not get a change in job title at the same employer, indicate more projects you may have been responsible for and the achievements obtained to show progress and advancement.
Highlight skills.It’s common for employers to assume a candidate who’s been at the same employer for many years may be in the dark about how the world works outside of that organization. Break down that false assumption by highlighting various skills you’ve obtained, whether you received training or certifications to help you continue to stay current on industry standards, software, or other areas of relevance for the job. While the current generation of workers makes faster runs between employers and an employee's dedication to one employer may appear rare these days, these tips will help ensure your resume is looked upon as a candidate with growth in your career and someone who has the potential to provide benefit to the next employer.
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It’s amazing to think about the ways LinkedIn has changed the way we interact - not only with each other, but also with our own data. LinkedIn has become the preeminent professional networking site amassing nearly 260 million users in 200 countries—and accomplishing all of this in just under 11 years (for context, Google, founded in 1998, is older). Most people know by now how important a well-maintained LinkedIn profile can be to their career. Here are some thoughts on what kinds of things you should include when creating the work history section of your LinkedIn profile...
LinkedIn: What To Include In Your Work HistoryAn important thing to keep in mind is that your LinkedIn profile isn’t really written for you. It should be written with the potential audience in mind (i.e. recruiters, hiring managers, and other professionals looking to do business with you). Focus on making sure that the information that is most relevant to your audience is available, well organized, and close to the top of your profile. Making this information easy to find increases the odds that you’ll get the call for that job or that business opportunity you’ve always wanted. Consider including the following when filling out your LinkedIn work history section:
Professional PositionsThis is the most obvious suggestion, since this is what this section is primarily intended for. Be sure to include company names, dates, titles, locations, and also consider providing an update if a company name changes due to acquisition or merger. Include a brief description of your responsibilities along with a bulleted list of 3-4 accomplishments—just as you would on your resume.
Volunteer RolesLinkedIn now has a section devoted exclusively to volunteer information, but you can and may want to consider incorporating volunteer positions into your main profile, particularly those that showcase leadership skills (especially if you are in transition and actively engaged in a search).
InternshipsMake sure to include internship positions, especially if you’re early in your career and they are relevant either to the field you’re in or the field you hope to enter.
Contract/Temporary PositionsDon’t overlook the value of including temporary or contract roles, particularly if you are an active job seeker. For one thing, they show recruiters and potential employers that you are active and keeping your skills sharp. A best practice is to focus on the most recent 10-15 years of your career, since this is the information that is most relevant to who you are now in a professional sense, and also the information that employers will be most interested in. Because you’re not limited in length, however, you have a little more latitude to include a few details that you’ve dropped from your resume do to space concerns. The caveat is that these elements still have to add value. Also, don’t overlook the value of keywords. You want to include the keywords that are relevant to your work history and career, but resist the temptation to ‘overstuff’ your profile with keywords—use them where they make sense. The most effective LinkedIn profiles do a good job of showcasing your traditional resume while also supplementing that with the most relevant additional content. Enjoy this article? You've got time for another! Check out these related articles:
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