10 Strategies for downplaying employment gaps when job searching

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.


7 Ways to Test Drive a Career Before Selecting One

April 24 is Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day. Kids across the country will accompany their parents to the office and learn about what happens during the workday. Making a career decision based on the experience isn’t likely; but,  they’ll see the world of work in action.

Many people spend more time planning a car or clothing purchase than their academic studies and career path. Who buys a car without test-driving it first? How many shoes or pairs of jeans do you try on before selecting “the right pair?”

Too often students leap into an academic program with little thought as to whether it’s the right fit for them. While the bottom line is you’ll never know unless you try, there are ways to learn about academic programs and careers before committing to them.

1. Read about careers, programs and majors: While it sounds simple enough, many students pick a major or career path with no research at all. Check out the program descriptions, many of which include possible career paths. View the course descriptions and ask yourself if the programs sound interesting. Look at occupation research websites that contain detailed information about thousands of professions.

2. Research yourself: When it comes to careers, have you really thought about what you’re good at, what you like and what’s important to you? Taking the time to research your skills, interests and values provides much needed information when trying to decide a career path. Meeting with a career counselor can help jumpstart the process of identifying some possible careers that compliment who you are.

3. Take an introductory course (if possible): Introductory courses can expose you to a program’s basic subject matter. If enjoy an introductory course, you may also like more in-depth studies that follow.

If taking an introductory course isn’t an option, pay close attention to your interest and performance in other related courses. If you want to study nursing but are having difficulty with introductory science courses, you may need to rethink your academic plans.

4. Talk to people: Informational interviewing gives you a glimpse into a job. Ask friends and family, professors and fellow students if they know anyone working in a profession of interest. LinkedIn, local chapters of professional associations and the Chamber of Commerce are also great resources for finding possible contacts.

5. Job shadow: If possible, why not turn an informational interview into a morning, afternoon or all day event? Ask your contact about the option to job shadow. Seeing the career in action is a tremendous learning opportunity.

6. Volunteer: Volunteering is a great way to see different career paths in action, especially if you’re considering working in helping professions like counseling, social services or teaching. In addition to your volunteer duties, you’ll have the chance to meet with people employed in the field who could talk to you about the work and their background.

7. Trust your instincts: After you’ve completed your research, you may still feel unsettled about your plans. What’s missing? It might be your gut instinct. Review your compiled notes and research and pay attention to what you’re thinking and feeling about programs and careers you’re considering.

Remember if you’re likely to keep notes about other big purchases – cars, homes, etc. – why not evaluate your college and career plans in the same way? Start your Career Research Project today!



10 Quick Tips to Make the Most of LinkedIn

As we’ve discussed over the past few weeks, LinkedIn is a valuable tool in your professional development. Whether seeking a job or seeking professional development opportunities, LinkedIn’s resources are extremely valuable.

But LinkedIn is only as helpful as you are involved with the social media tool. Creating a top-notch profile and making connections are the keys to LinkedIn’s ability to assist you.

Check out these other top ten quick tips for LinkedIn best practices.

1. Include a photo. Studies show that profiles with pictures get more clicks than those without. Make sure the photo is a professional head shot of only you.

2. Use keywords throughout your entire profile. Potential employers and contacts find your profile through keywords. Use resources like the Occupational Outlook Handbook and O*Net to learn keywords in your industry. Use keywords from job postings that you view.

3. Put some thought into your profile title. “Talented CPCC graphic design student” grabs attention quicker than “Student.”

4. Use the Profile Summary section to explain any potential red flags. A stay-at-home mom who fears her years of at-home status may hinder her hiring abilities. The “job hopper” accounting for multiple terms of employment. The downsized manager who has been unemployed for two years. All three examples can benefit from an honest, professional approach in their LinkedIn summary.

5. Seek and give recommendations and endorsements LinkedIn’s endorsement section is fairly new and very powerful. Prospective employers consider these testimonials a great resource for evaluating candidates. Take the time to endorse your contacts’ skills as well as write professional LinkedIn recommendations. They’ll likely return the favor. You can also ask a contact to write a recommendation for you. If possible, have at least one recommendation for each place of employment listed in your profile, ideally from people who’ve supervised or managed you (and those you’ve supervised and managed, when applicable).

6. Get active in applicable LinkedIn Groups. Not only are groups important for professional development, but your involvement shows potential employers how serious you are about your profession.

7. Update your status. Just like Facebook, LinkedIn lets you update your status. Get professionally creative. Post links to newsworthy web posting or news item. Link to appropriate YouTube videos that fit your professional niche. If you’re employed, post an important announcement about the company. Recently hired or looking for employment opportunities? Let your contacts know.  Quotes of the day always get noticed and often reposted.

8. Research the Job Seeker Premium option. Everyone can create a basic LinkedIn account free of charge. For a fee, members can upgrade to the Job Seeker Premium level. Some of the additional features are very helpful for someone using LinkedIn for intense job searching.

9. Keep your profile current. Just like a resume, updating your LinkedIn account is easier as you go, rather than playing catch up.

10. Add contacts often. Don’t wait until the unfortunate event when you need many connections (a job loss). Build your contacts and connections as your career develops.

Don’t forget to join the CPCC Career Services LinkedIn group. We’re talking about a variety of career-related topics. It’s a great resource for employers and students alike.


LinkedIn 101: Searching for jobs

Photographer: Robert S. DonovanMore companies are posting job opportunities on LinkedIn. While reading online job boards shouldn’t be the focus of your job search, adding LinkedIn to your list of websites is a must. You can apply for jobs directly on LinkedIn as well as view and contact connections that might be able to refer you for the job.

Before getting started, make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete. Employers look at it. Additionally, start making connections with other LinkedIn members. If you only use LinkedIn to look for job postings, you’re missing out on a significant component of the site’s job searching purpose and effectiveness.

Check out these four ways to search for jobs using LinkedIn.

1. Search for jobs – general and advanced search

  • Click on the Jobs tab at the top of the page and then click on the Find Jobs tab.
  • Enter keywords related to the jobs or profession you’re interested in and click Search.
  • To specify your search, click on the Jobs tab, followed by Find a Job tab, and select Advanced Search, located just below the keyword search box. You’ll then be able to search for jobs by zip code, industry, function and (for Job Seeker Premium members) salary levels.

2. Receive job opening alerts based on profile

  • Once you complete your profile, LinkedIn begins suggesting job openings based on the information supplied. Someone whose summary and employment emphasizes keywords in the IT field will be notified of open positions related to the profession.
  • Click the Jobs and Find Jobs tabs. After the keyword search box, you’ll see a section called “Jobs you may be interested in.” If the jobs listed aren’t of interest, check your profile to make sure it clearly outlines your professional interests.
  • Select to receive daily or weekly email alerts to your email address affiliated with LinkedIn. Find the Get email alerts icon in this section.

3. Find jobs posted at companies where your contacts work

  • Click on a contact to view their employment history.
  • Click on the company logo of their current or previous employers.
  • View information about the company including a list of open jobs as well as other employees who have LinkedIn accounts. Is it beneficial to connect with any of them?

4. Look for jobs at a specific company

  • Click the Company icon at the top of the page, followed by the Search Companies link.
  • Enter the name of a company you wish to follow on LinkedIn.
  • Start following the company to learn about jobs posted by the company on LinkedIn, as well as receive company updates.

 Applying for jobs on LinkedIn

Employers have the option of having applicants apply to jobs directly through LinkedIn or on the company website. If directed to the company website, follow the instructions. When applying through LinkedIn your profile is forwarded to the company and you’ll be given the opportunity to send a cover letter. Do it. It’s an extra step that makes all the difference.

LinkedIn 101: Connections and Contacts

LinkedIn 101: Connections and Contacts

Many students who are very active on Facebook hesitate to get involved with LinkedIn. LinkedIn is simply another social media outlet, a way to connect with others who share commonalities with you.

Your Facebook profile generates suggestions for people to connect with who share your same friends or may be from the same city, college, high school or place of employment as you. LinkedIn functions in the same way. But instead of friends who you’ll share recipes and fun stories with, they’ll be people who share your professional background and career interests.

That’s what makes LinkedIn a fantastic job search and professional development tool. Networking is essential to any job search. Meeting people in your profession is the best way to find mentors, learn more about the field and tap into the hidden job market. Once you set up your profile it’s time to start linking!

Keys to building your LinkedIn Network

1. Be proactive and initiate making contact with others.

  • Friends and family. In any networking situation, the first place to start is with people you know best.
  •  Alumni. Search the LinkedIn Alumni Page to find fellow alumni who are living in the same region, working in the same industry and even employed at companies of interest to you.
  • Former coworkers and supervisors. Connecting to coworkers is especially helpful to see who they’re linked with in the profession.
  • Industry members and company employees. If you’re profile indicates being employed at Wells Fargo, LinkedIn will likely start suggesting possible contacts who work at other financial institutions. This is the way to build your network outside of your employer.  

2. Join industry-related groups.  Under the Group icon at the top of the page, scroll down to find the Group Directory. Enter keywords in the search box to find groups of interest. You’ll need to request to join the group. If a group is a closed group, the group moderator will have to approve your request. This is done to ensure group members have a true interest in the group’s mission.

In addition to providing opportunities to connect with others, groups give their members the chance to keep up with the profession’s latest trends through online discussion.

3. Send a productive and professional connection request.

When you request a connection with someone on LinkedIn, a screen pops up asking you how you know the person, along with an automated note saying “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” When linking with someone you don’t know well or haven’t met, take the time to write a short note explaining how you located the person, what you have in common and why you’d like to link with him or her.


Hi John,

I located your profile through the American Dental Hygienists’ Association group, of which we are both members. I’m a first year student in the Dental Hygiene Program at Central Piedmont Community College and look forward to connecting with you to learn more about the profession.

Would you be willing to connect with me?



The more involved you are with LinkedIn the more it will benefit your professional development. How many times a week do you visit Facebook? You’re LinkedIn account deserves as much time, if not more.