Embracing Employment Gaps and Career Changes in Your Résumé
Working for one company for a long period of time or having gaps in employment history does not have to be a deal breaker when seeking a new job or career change. People move in and out of the workforce for many reasons. It does not mean you can’t jump back in or leap over to another employer; just make sure that your résumé tells the story.
I recently held a Job Search Master Class® webinar where I received a lot of questions from attendees about how to handle gaps in their résumé and how to diversify their experience if they worked for the same employer for many years. So, I know it’s on the minds of many job seekers today.
To start, it’s important to note that all résumés should follow three major principles of résumé excellence. While these principles apply to all résumés, those re-entering the workforce or seeking to break out of a long career trajectory, will need them to rise to the top.
- Searchability—Optimize the key word search, to be found by the robots (e.g., applicant tracking systems, email systems, job boards, résumé databases, social media and web search engines). Find out the key words and key phrases that trigger you to be found in your desired job area.
- Easy to Read—Ensure the résumé is well-formatted online and in print so it reads clearly. Make sure you have a lot of white space, bulleted text, and easy-to-scan headings. Use a limited number of fonts-no more than two.
- Quantitative—Insert numbers or percentages and quantify experiences wherever possible. Quantification can mean how close you were to top managers or what percentage of code you wrote this year over last year.
The following highlights scenarios for job seekers who have had the same employer for many years or have gaps in employment.
Scenario: Same employer for many years
- When the majority of your job experience comes from one employer, break out your experiences and job responsibilities as separate activities.
- If you changed positions within the company, list the different titles and break out experiences as bullets underneath.
- One of my clients sought a new job after 22 years with the same employer. She landed a CFO position at a new company because she was able to represent her years of experience independently. She broke out her specific skills and used the important keywords for her new job on her résumé.
Scenario: Gaps in employment
- Gaps in employment history are very common. I work with many military spouses who have huge gaps because they have been overseas and could not work. Sometimes, they have been raising kids or caring for older parents for years.
- Taking time off from work to pursue education creates an employment gap. There are many life circumstances that lead to gaps.
- Treat the reason for your gap as the job description. Describe the activities you did as caregiving for a child or parent, returning to school for a graduate degree, or travelling the world. Be sure to list any and all volunteer work, whether it’s helping out at your child’s school, working with seniors at community center, or volunteering at the library or food bank; volunteer tasks can translate well to job qualifications.
- I recently helped a client who raised three children for 18 years and who didn’t think she would qualify for a job. We included the skills she has as a result of caregiving, volunteering and her hobby of photography on her résumé. She landed a job as a college recruiter for a big company, where she didn’t need technical skills to start.
- You don’t need to call them gaps, either!
There are many jobs and positions where your background will shine, and where your skills and experience are perfect for the right employer. Create a résumé that shows how you embrace your life chapters and aren’t afraid to get back into the workforce or start over at a new company.