POSTED ON

7 May 2018

Life has a way of throwing you a curve ball. Sometimes they're good, sometimes bad, and sometimes they can compel you to leave a career behind and take a long hiatus from work. After that long break, you're now ready to go back to the rat race and apply for a new job. But how do you address that gap in your resume? For sure, hiring managers and HR personnel are going to wonder and ask you about it.

Whether your career break was due to familial responsibilities, illness, travel, education, or something else entirely, handling a career gap in your resume can be difficult, but it needs to be done. Ignoring it can only serve to prolong your hiatus even further. The good news is that it's still possible for you to write a compelling resume. All it takes is to know how.

Before writing your resume

Don't rush straight into writing your resume. Plan and set goals for yourself beforehand. Think of the careers that will suit your lifestyle and situation. And be sure to do the following:

  • Evaluate your skills and experience

When was the last time you assessed yours? While your education, experience and training may have served you well in your past job, you may need to do some brushing up and update your skills. You'll likely be going up against job applicants who have had a steady career trajectory, so you have some catching up to do. By improving your skillset, you improve your chances of being selected as the right candidate for the job.

  • Re-establish your relationship with the working world

Now that you're set to re-enter the workforce, you need to consider reconnecting with former colleagues and other working professionals. Aside from being a way to network, doing so can give you a feel for what to prepare for. If you used to attend trade groups and associations in the past, it might be worth renewing your membership, simply to rebuild old ties. You may also attend conferences and trade shows, take on freelance and consulting projects, even do volunteer work.

When writing your resume

You need to convince hiring managers and employers that you are qualified for the job. For your resume's content to reflect this, you need to 'sell' yourself in an active fashion. Start by choosing the right resume structure. Since you've been out of work for a long time, using the reverse chronological format could be a mistake, as it can glaringly make it obvious that you've been out of work for a lengthy period. That said, both functional resume and combination resume formats can work more in your favor. Below are other tips to keep in mind when writing your resume.

  • Highlight the positive

Think of the activities you got involved in while out of work. Perhaps some, if not all, carry some applicability to your career goal. Highlight the following activities in your resume if you've ever participated in them.

  • -Volunteer work/community involvement such as fundraisers, helping out at non-profits, renovating a local playground, etc.
  • -Training and education such as online courses, independent study, Toastmaster, and the like.
  • -Freelance work
  • -Involvement in professional organizations and business conferences
  • -Any profitable endeavor
  • Elaborate on each skill

For each skill or competency that you put on your resume, make sure to include a brief summary detailing your expertise. Include two to three instances when you successfully demonstrated a particular skill. Craft each instance as an achievement. Focus on results, not responsibilities. Support information with facts and figures. You can use any examples from any period in your career, but the most recent ones will be more favorable.

  • Avoid drawing attention to dates

When formatting your resume, don't surround dates with white space, as it tends to make them stand out and attract the reader's eye. Instead, place them next to your job titles and put them in parentheses to reduce their impact.

  • Make your cover letter work

Your cover letter can be a useful tool for you to explain why you had to give up your previous job. Aside from providing your explanation, use your cover letter to express how excited you are about reentering the workforce, as well as the assurance that you'll do everything in your power to stand out in your job should they decide to hire you.

  • Include hobbies and interests (but don’t go overboard)

A 'hobbies and interests' section rarely makes it onto a one-page resume, but since you're going to lack any recent work experience, adding this section can be a great way to have a potential employer consider your personality and values for the job. Are they looking for leadership skills? That time you coached your child's soccer team can be useful. Built a garden so that your family can eat home-grown organic foods? That can be valuable information as well. If you think a particular hobby or interest can help you land the job, include it.

  • Be honest

There's no denying that a career hiatus can be detrimental to your hiring chances, so you may be tempted get a little 'creative' with your resume. This is never a good idea. Not only is stretching the truth on your resume wrong, but it can also come back to haunt you. Many successful people lost their careers because of a falsified credential or a made-up job title, so always be honest. Even if your invented embellishments fail to get noticed by your potential employer during the hiring process, you're simply setting yourself up for failure at a later time, which can be devastating.

Conclusion

You'll have to put in more effort into your job application than those with recent work experience, so keep your chin up, stay positive, and keep faith. You may even have to take on a less-than-ideal job offer, so be prepared to make sacrifices. Instead of declining, use it as a stepping stone to get your career back on track.

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