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Thursday, March 31, 2016 12:02 am

Resume tips for workforce reentry

Minding the gaps


When you are attempting to reenter the workforce after an extended absence, it can be daunting to submit your resume with pride and confidence. You need not be deceptive about your work history though. Just highlight your strengths and capacities and de-emphasize the gaps. Or accentuate the positive and explain the negative.

Though there are many valid reasons for a gap in work history – time off to care for children or a sick relative, a personal health crisis, or downsizing, for instance – these gaps may scare off potential employers. However, you need not tuck your tail between your legs and retreat from the fierce job market. Both the format and the content of your resume can support a productive job search.

While a chronological resume – which lists positions held from most recent to least – may point out the time you were unemployed, experts caution against completely neglecting it in favor of a functional resume, which leaves out dates and simply highlights skills. The best bet is to create a dynamic document that is a hybrid of the two styles. Instead of starting off with an “objective,” begin with a robust executive “summary” of what you most want to showcase – your past accomplishments and what you’ve been doing. Move on then to skills or “core proficiencies” which you have honed, both through previous work and what you’ve been doing outside of the workforce. Have you been balancing the family budget, negotiating with health care institutions, serving on a volunteer committee? It’s all valuable experience. You are skilled in project management, communications and financial planning.

But don’t get cute about it. “Head parent” or “Domestic engineer” should not be listed as a job title if you want to be taken seriously. Nor should laundry, cooking and standard domestic responsibilities be included in your skills or responsibilities. Hiring experts who read this will worry about your capability to handle work outside the home if these duties are so important to you.

You may de-emphasize shorter gaps in employment by getting rid of months and just listing years. Don’t leave out any volunteer work that has kept you busy. It need not be obvious that the work you’ve done to support community organizations is unpaid. Highlight what you accomplished in these roles and the skills you’ve honed. The life skills you have accumulated give you a huge advantage over less seasoned candidates. List any certifications or trainings you have done and how they are related to the job at hand, as well as articles or blogs published. These demonstrate that you have maintained a connection with your industry and its standards. If you haven’t, get started now!

Use your cover letter to directly address gaps in your resume and mention how energized you are to return to work. (“I was fully engaged with parenting. Now that my children are in school I am eager to return to my career.” ) If you were out of work due to downsizing, explain that the situation was out of your hands and list concrete indicators of your reliable performance as well as the availability of references from your previous employer.

When you’ve been unemployed, you need to show that you have been doing something productive or something that demonstrates strength of character.

It is up to you to illustrate how the activities in your life have prepared you perfectly for the job in question. You need to accept that the employer may have reservations and address them head on. Show them you’re not a risk, but a person of integrity who takes responsibilities seriously. When you feel genuinely confident about your choices, your positive attitude will help put employers at ease.  

Contact Ann Farrar at afarrar@illinoistimes.com.


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