Overcoming employment gaps on your resume

Many job-seekers have barriers to overcome, some more serious than others. Extended periods of unemployment and gaps in your employment record need to be explained. The reasons can range from motherhood to time spent in a detention facility—whatever situation interrupted your working life should be addressed. Employers are more likely to respond to, or retain, a resume that is complete than one that is not.

How to deal with employment gaps in your resume

Reason: Parenthood
Solution: You may want to use an introductory letter in place of a resume if your skills and experience are limited. You could send it to potential employers, or use it as a networking tool and pass it around to people you already know who might have contacts in a field where you could start out. It must look professional as it will likely end up in the hands of a potential employer you have yet to meet.
If you have worked before and took more than the allotted maternity time off to raise your family, then simply state the dates and emphasize the skills you used at your previous job.

Reason: Spouse or relative illness
Solution: The combination style resume is best suited to this situation. Simply include this fact under the dates of your employment gap and, if possible, also state that medical documentation can be made available to the employer if necessary. It is advisable not to go into detail about the illness; this can be done during the interview.

Reason: Personal illness
Solution: Same as above, using the combination resume. This, however, may be more complicated, depending upon the nature of the illness. Some employers are more than willing to hire someone who has suffered from an illness or accident, but they will want to be sure that any repercussions will not affect performance in the workplace. Being able to offer documentation is a big asset.

Reason: Upgrading education
Solution: Be sure to add this to your resume and explain in your cover letter how your updated education relates to the position for which you are applying. This can easily be turned into a benefit, showing you have current skills and you are ready to join the workforce again with more knowledge and more impressive credentials. Simply include the school and courses under the appropriate dates.

Reason: Downsizing
Solution: If your work history to this point is gap-free and more than 10 years, use a chronological resume. This will show that you were a good, solid employee and that you lost your job through no fault of your own. Show on your resume why you are better suited to the job than your competition, if there has been a massive lay-off. This is a good time to use as many of the resume enhancements listed below as appropriate.

Reason: Incompetence in your last job
Solution: This calls for a functional resume. Some employers may see this as a "red flag" but if you have good skills, you should lead with your best asset. Problems at your last job may be explained at an interview. Professional career counseling can be an effective route back to work.

Reason: Time spent in a detention center.
Solution: In this situation, honesty is the best policy. It is best to seek help from an employment counselor who will assist you in your job search and interview rehearsal.

Reason: Personal growth, such as travel
Solution: This category may include young people who have taken a year off work to see the world, or recently retired employees who decided to travel and then begin a second career. Make sure to include any skills (such as learning another language) that could benefit the job for which you are applying.

Reason: Entrepreneurship
Solution: If you left the work force to start your own business and have discovered that it cannot support you fully, simply list the nature of the commerce, dates of operation, and the expertise you gained through this endeavor. This barrier can actually be beneficial, especially if you gained valuable business experience. Make sure to include as many positive learning experiences as possible.

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