During your career, it’s not uncommon to take time off from work. Sometimes the break is voluntary and other times the choice is unfortunately made for you through downsizing or termination.
Regardless of the reason, employment gaps require accountability and explanation. Check out these 10 tips and strategies.
1. Include activities, community involvement and education: Just because you weren’t paid for volunteering in your church or child’s school doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be listed on your resume. Create a category called “Experience” and list such positions here. Additionally, if you took time off to pursue a degree, highlight your education section at the top of your resume.
2. Consider eliminating months on a resume: If you were only employed with a company for a short period of time within a year, list the year of employment rather than the specific month you began and ended the position.
3. Check your resume format: There are strategies for highlighting some entries and downplaying others. Put job titles in bold. List dates of employment on the right side of the page next to company name or title (standing alone draws attention to them).
4. Create a solid skills section, objective or summary statement: Use these resume sections to highlight the qualifications you can offer a potential employer.
5. Highlight conferences, seminars or continuing education classes: Let employers know when you’ve attend conferences seminars or courses in a particular field. It shows you’re taking the initiative to stay current in the profession.
6. Develop a strong LinkedIn presence: Engage in meaningful professional development and networking through LinkedIn. List your LinkedIn account within your contact information. Employers will check it out and see maintaining a professional presence through your job search.
7. Provide reasons for taking a voluntary break: If you took time off from a paying position to raise a family, recover from an injury or tend to a sick family member, let employers know. Avoid using an apologetic tone. Briefly offer why the decision was necessary and meaningful.
8. Utilize a cover letter and interviews to offer explanations: Take the time to develop a thoughtful concise cover letter that draws attention to resume highlights and therefore downplays the employment gaps. If you’re invited for an interview, be prepared to address employment gaps honestly. Take the opportunity to talk about your skills and enthusiasm for the job.
9. Avoid blaming a former employer when discussing being laid off or downsized: Focus on your strong performance prior to the downsizing. Secure recommendations and references from supervisors and colleagues.
10. Be concise and honest when talking about termination: Consider mentioning steps you’ve taken to improve or correct problems that led to your dismissal. Avoid talking negatively about a former employer. Indicate your desire and enthusiasm for a fresh start and tell the employer why their particular job opening affords you this opportunity and what positive attributes you’ll bring to the position.