Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nervous About Explaining Employment Gaps

We've all known employers review a resume in detail before calling you for an interview. We also know they want an explanation for where you've been, what you've been doing and how well you've been doing it once you're in the interview. So, how do you explain those long gaps in your work history?

It's a tricky situation, so in this blog I'll focus on how to explain your job gaps and what you can do to still be valuable out of work.

Many times when critiquing a resume to send out to an employer we often omit jobs that do not pertain to the job that we are applying for, and that can cause unnecessary gaps in your resume.

For example, let's say you are applying for a sales job. You would not want to list your previous job in warehouse selecting or that time you worked as a janitor as your work history; you'll detail your experience in sales. But that leaves two years void of employment details, which will throw up a red flag to your potential employer. It might appear that you were out of work and then they have to wonder why that might be the case. But you know you have those 2 jobs you didn't list. So you're safe, right? After all you're a hard worker, so it should read through loud and clear to that employer. Right? WRONG. Anytime you leaves information off your resume, it leave the employer with questions in his/her mind. To alleviate those concern, simply list a separate section of unrelated work history. This way, they know you're not a slacker, you weren't off the grid and just didn't feel like working. You have documented activities and experience that, even though unrelated, kept you in the workforce and makes you just that much more valuable.

Now, for all of you who weren't working and don't have job experience to list... I wasn't calling you slackers! I'm sure you have some very valuable experience to list as well. There are many reasons you're not working-- maybe you were laid off. With the economy on a decline for the past year or so, many people find themselves in this situation. Or maybe you left the workforce to have kids. Maybe you left because your mother was sick. Whatever the reason, you'll need to have some information on hand to reassure your potential employer you remained active and are ready to step back into the game.

Let's discuss your options for staying active:

1) The best thing to do is stay active within your field of expertise.

Obviously, an employer wants to know how you are going to help their business. If you can tell him/her that, even though you weren't being paid, you took on an internship or a voluntary position to keep your skill set sharp, you'll certainly be considered a top applicant.

2) Volunteer in the community, at schools, or any type of organization.

Your initiative will be impressive and demonstrate that you are still working. It also tells the employer that although you may not be getting paid, networking is important to you as is gaining experience in fields where you may not be familiar.

3) Keep your resume updated.

You never know when you're going to run into job opportunities. Keep track of all your new skills and activities while out of work. Remember, just because it is not a job it still can go on the resume. After all, you still learned the skills, right?

4) Keep current on the skills you have.

Granted, money is tight when out of work but keeping up-to-date with information in your field is key to making yourself appealing to an employer. For example, if you work with computers, stay up to date with new software and how it works. A class at a local college or a seminar can really add value to what you have to offer.

5) Go part time.

Part time work is better than no work at all. The part time job can be in your field or can be something completely different. Either way you're still out there, you're still working, you're still fresh and that makes you a much better candidate.

6) Change it up.

Maybe losing your job can be a positive thing. Maybe it is time for a career change. Ask yourself if you really liked where you were to begin with? If not then what are you interested in? Is there a job that you have always wanted to go after? If so then take this opportunity to make it happen!

In Conclusion:

Having an answer to the question you want to avoid, "Why the gaps in your work history," is going to be better than no answer at all. Remember, it's best to be honest about you reasons ad explain yourself, but NEVER exaggerate or lie. Most companies will terminate an employer for lying on an application or in an interview. You've worked hard to earn this face time, don't blow it with an exaggerated fact.

Carly Sabato


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