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It's a fact. That thing called life happens to all of us. Life might bring a new baby, a job layoff, a sick family member, a personal illness, or perhaps life leads us back to college. But sometimes these life events leave behind a gap or even a gaping hole in our resume. And of course there are a whole slew of other reasons that leave gaps in a resume. If this is you, you're probably wondering how to handle these holes and what, if anything, you can do to fill them.
For example, how can you prevent being out of work from keeping you from working? First of all, keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with being out of work, no matter what the reason. If you have a negative or apologetic tone while writing your resume, it may keep you from writing effectively and from being shown in the best light. Keep in mind that it's very honorable to continue your education, raise a family, or care for a sick family member. Begin by writing a headline, and then a qualifications summary that lists your top qualifications, located at the top of your resume.
These strategies will marquee your qualifications and downplay your employment dates. Shorter time periods that need to be filled in can be covered by simply removing the months from your resume and only including years. Take this example, for instance. If your employment ended in February of 2009 and began again in October of 2010, you can glaze over the gap, simply by only listing the years. The end date for your last employer will be 2009 and your begin date for your present employer would shows 2010, which does not make the eight month gap as glaring.
Have you started your own business? A friend of mine had been caught in a layoff a year prior. In the meantime, she started her own business photographing pets. She created a web site and she did all the advertising, but her resume didn't include her new business and her goal was to make a career change as a photographer. She didn't have a job gap at all. She had only a shortchanged to herself by not including this pertinent information on a resume. Don't distinguish between paid and unpaid work on your resume.
If you did volunteer work, or you home-schooled your children, place this information on your resume by highlighting your transferable skills. And if you home-schooled your kids, believe me, that's work. If you need more information on what transferable skills are and how to find out what yours are, see the movie entitled "Entering the Workforce." Include any consulting or freelance work that you've done, even if you didn't make it dine. How about community involvement, special projects, consulting, or speaking engagements? Get creative.
If what you've been doing and the experience you've gained can be considered relevant to your job target, it doesn't matter if you were paid. Add it to your Experience section of your resume. Remember not to lie; information is easily checked nowadays. Never misrepresent your current employment status by stating 'to present' when you're no longer working there. Be upfront. Consider addressing glaring gaps of multiple years on your cover letter. Make the explanation one to two sentences only.
Keep in mind that if you do decide to wait until the interview, you may never get the chance to explain yourself, because the interview may never come. When doing so, make sure that you bring out your enthusiasm for returning to the workforce. Don't draw attention to short gaps of time in your resume. You don't need to address those gaps. You also don't need to address gaps that happened longer than ten years ago. Consider filling them in using years instead of month/year or combining work history. Draw attention to your strengths. Accentuate the positive.
If you have a huge gap or gaps throughout your resume or extremely poor employment background, you may want to consider using the Functional resume layout. Chronological or Chrono-functional formats are what recruiters and hiring managers prefer. So keep in mind that the Functional format may put them on alert. In today's economy, you don't want something as simple as the format to keep it from being read it all. Review the movie on using the Functional resume format for some great ways of presenting your information.
You can minimize the job hopper image when using the chronological or combination formats by combining several similar jobs into one chunk. For example, from 2004-2006, you're a waiter/busboy at several different places. From 2003-2005, you were a secretary/ receptionist at several different places as well. So just combine them into one chunk. The bottom line is, life happens. We just need to learn how to fill on the gaps life leaves behind.
It's not an impossible task. If you can't think of anything to fill on the gaps, start volunteering or taking courses to help fill in those blanks. Remember, don't let being out of work keep you from working.
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