Andrew Pearl, CPRW and CEO of Precision Resumes, Inc. provides resume advice at an Orlando, Florida career fair.
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Now, one of the most common reasons that job seekers come to us has to do with career gaps. Lets look at a couple of strategies that you can utilize if you have some unemployment gaps in your career. First, don’t include months on your resume. Only include the years you spent at a job. So, if you were laid off in March and you find a job next week, you don’t even have to include a gap on your resume for all intents and purposes.
It’s very very important to see the difference between short gaps and long gaps. In this economy, many many people have had to deal with gaps that wouldn’t of had to deal with that 10 years ago. The average duration of unemployment from 1948 to 2007 was 13.5 weeks. Today the average time frame to find a job is 40.5 weeks. Since more and more people are having to deal with gaps employers tend to be forgiving when it comes to short gaps. So, if you are only talking about a year or two you may still have challenges but there are many more employers that understand that that is part of the process in today’s economy.
It becomes easier if you can include some information that shows what you were trying to do in between positions. What type of activities can you include if you have a gap? Did you do any training or study any new things that show dedication or desire to learn in between positions? Continuous education and online training programs can really be helpful in justifying time between roles. Another way to deal with a gap has to do with volunteer work. This can help you network but also give you information that is going to elevate your resume and justify time between positions.
Now, if you are dealing with a gap that is more than a year or two then you might have to consider a non-chronological structure. Functional resumes that break down information by category are useful because they can push your career history to the bottom of the resume. First you show your skills and then you focus on the chronology. The risk here is that experienced readers know this too. So, when we see non-chronological resumes the first question you ask is why is someone changing the structure so, there is a risk and a reward if you try and use a functional structure.
Now, a question that we often get is how you deal with a gap for a sensitive reason. If you had to take a year off because you were taking care of a parent or a spouse, be succinct and tactful. Say it but say it clearly and quickly. Obviously that can justify why there is a gap in your career but it’s not something you want to go in to for paragraphs and paragraphs which we have seen before. Lastly, don’t forget about self- employment, consulting or project-based work. All of these can go in your resume and help justify a gap in your professional experience.