Resumes are typically the first “impression” a hiring manager has of a person and therefore, a resume needs to be a positive reflection of all experiences and education. When there is a gap of “employment” in a resume it can raise questions or doubt in the mind of the employer before a person even enters the door. However, proactively handling this gap positively and effectively can be a valuable asset related to experience and credibility.
People often have gaps in their resumes for many reasons – taking time off to further education, raising a family, taking care of ailing parents, spending some time touring the world, or just enjoying a sabbatical. Regardless of the reason for the gap there are most likely some positive experiences enjoyed that can contribute to overall qualifications for the types of job being sought.
As a writer, it’s important to position information as positively and uniquely as possible. Try some of these ideas to create a compelling resume:
1. You stayed home to raise a family? That seems like time off, but for anyone who has raised children, you know that it is definitely not time off! Think about the skills you have gained in multi-tasking, organizing, leading, negotiating, and mentoring. Maybe you led the PTA, community groups, or fundraisers. Perhaps you organized events, parties and other activities. You’ve probably spent time as an events planner and coordinating activities in many different ways. These are valuable life skills which can be included on your resume as assets in your experience. Financial and operations jobs require this kind of experience. Other jobs such as marketing and event planning, sales, and general management can benefit greatly from this first-hand experience as well.
2. You toured Europe for two months? What great experience in studying other cultures and evaluating international business practices and lifestyles. You have broadened your horizons by absorbing information about people with different ethnic backgrounds and saw first-hand what things are important to them. Coordinating travel schedules, ensuring effective time management, and overcoming language barriers were parts of your “job”. How great this experience would be for someone in operations, sales, media relations, or marketing.
3. You took care of your ailing parents? This life experience is something that cannot be taught. Coordinating services, analyzing health care benefits and cost issues, leveraging resources for 24/7 care, negotiating with health care agencies and vendors for support services, and organizing events were most likely part of your daily life. You were definitely multi-tasking and managing activities for two separate households. You obtained valuable experience in eldercare issues and geriatric care. This experience will go far in business, finance, health care, or any profession that requires a general management background.
If there is a gap in a resume, think about the many things you did and what you learned from them. Evaluate the time spent objectively and determine new skills learned or enhanced during the process. Determine how these skills and life experiences can be directly applied to the job you are seeking. Include just enough on your resume to peak the employer’s interest and then be prepared to elaborate in a professional and concise way when you meet for an interview.
Don’t let gaps in your resume cause you to feel intimidated. Turn these gaps into valuable skills and experiences that get you the job you want. You will find that employers appreciate the depth of knowledge you have gained in these areas and you might just land that job quicker than you ever thought you could!
If you are not able to parlay your experiences into a professional resume, check online resources or work with a professional recruiter. It’s time and money well-spent in today’s competitive job market.