Your fingers hover over the keys of your laptop, but there’s nothing left to say.
You read and reread the document, thinking there must be more, something you’re missing. You get up, walk around the room. You check old emails, maybe even old tax info. There must be something you’re forgetting to list.
You look at the file, again. Could you fudge the dates? Leave them off entirely?
Work History…. how can it end in 2008?!?
There’s no way around it. But how to make an employer understand?
Is it over before it even began?
Many clients come to me with this problem. Most are mothers seeking to re-enter the workforce after an extended leave, but not all. Some have spent the last decade caregiving, and others were working in positions far removed from the industry they now plan to reenter. Some were freelancing from home, or even odd-jobbing their way through South East Asia. Wherever they were, they came to me ready to rejoin the rat race! But… how?
The client that gave the above feedback was facing the same issue. A former receptionist & sales professional, she’d taken extended leave to care for her children and, towards the end of her leave, had suffered a major health crisis that required even more time at home. Almost ten years had passed unaccounted for on her resume. This client pretty much broke my heart by how down she felt about herself. To say she was daunted and disheartened was a major underestimate, but she didn’t have to feel so hopeless.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are in a similar situation:
Keep it Brief
A back-to-work resume should remain short and to-the-point. No need to exaggerate multiple pages of skills and achievements; there’s a bit of insincerity to that sort of thing that’s easy for others to spot. In fact, sometimes a resume can be even less than one page. Because the above client had started a family fairly early in life and therefore had had limited time in the workforce before motherhood, we chose to split her one-page resume into two halves. Using a sidebar, we listed a short cover letter on the left, and a succinct history of work & volunteer experience, skills, and references on the right.
Are killer graphics going to win an employer’s trust? No, not really. But they might catch her eye! Great design shows a level of professionalism and style even if your history doesn’t have a lot to say. Remember, a picture says a thousand words – make sure the visuals you use represent the ideal worker you will be.
Honesty is the Best Policy
An employer does not have the right to ask you about personal factors such as your family situation or health. But sometimes it’s in your best interest to be upfront about certain situations. It is very common for parents to take an extended leave in their child’s early years, and there’s nothing wrong with mentioning you were doing just that: “After an extended leave to care for my children’s early years, I am now eager to resume my work in ______”
Mine Your Life for Non-Traditional Experience
Unless you were in a coma, you were learning and growing and working in some way. Did you volunteer at your child’s playschool, or coordinate efforts twice a week at a local homeless shelter? Maybe you had a photography side-hustle or travelled sixteen countries in three years. All these things count as experience, so use then! Just make sure you’re sharing skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for and avoiding “cutesy” territory (a great resume writer can be a lot of help in this area!)
Most importantly, know that employment gaps are common and surmountable. There’s no need to panic, and lack of confidence will harm your chances of landing a great job far worse than lack of work. Be yourself and be sure of what abilities you can bring to the position and before you know it, that job history will speak for itself! And remember – help is only an email away!
I hope this little bit of advice helps you in your job search and application. If you would like to receive more resume tips as they’re written, please sign up for my monthly newsletter, or feel free to bounce around the site in the Resume Tips category. To order your own professional resume services, please get in touch or click here to learn more about the service.