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The Dog Ate My Resume—How to Justify Work History Gaps
Guest articles > The Dog Ate My Resume—How to Justify Work History Gaps
by: Leslie Williams
No one likes a job interview. It's stressful, and more often than not, an exercise in futility since some job seekers will go on as many as 16 job interviews before landing a position. As if a job interview weren't stressful enough, it can be doubly so if it's been a while since you worked. Many employers look unfavorably upon gaps in work history. This may not hold as true now with so many people having lost their jobs during the economic downturn. Some businesses may be more understanding about a period of unemployment, but it may still be cause for a little trepidation on their part, especially if you've been out of the workforce for a while. Are you out of touch with the industry? Have you kept current with your skills? And are you going to be able to quickly adapt to the work environment?
The best way to counter this is to keep busy during periods when you're either not working outside the home, or not working at all. Let's face it—telling an interviewer that you decided to take a break from the rat race to "find yourself" probably won't go over too well. But neither will an admission that you've gone on five job interviews a day for three months straight. Justified or not, your prospective boss may wonder what the problem is if no one else has hired you. Still, there are plenty of ways you can justify resume gaps at your next job interview, and make yourself more attractive to potential employers.
Do Volunteer Work
When you're looking for a job, it's easy to get caught up in sitting in front of the computer day after day, doing job search after job search, submitting your resume to every position that even remotely falls in line with your skill set. A job is necessary, of course, but try not to turn looking for one into a full-time endeavor.
No matter where you live, there are plenty of charitable organizations in need of volunteers. Whether it's fostering a dog or cat from your local animal shelter, or taking meals to homebound elderly or chronically ill people, you can find a program worthy of your time. There's also nothing wrong with adding a community involvement section to your resume. If an interviewer asks for more details, you can describe what helping others means to you, and how it translates to the workplace. Helping coworkers be successful means helping the company be successful as well.
Start a Business
You don't have to incorporate and rent a storefront to start a business. It can be as simple as proclaiming yourself a sole proprietorship (Before you do that, review the IRS rules or talk to an accountant.) and either selling wares or providing a service. You can open a shop on a Web site like Etsy, and sell handmade jewelry or art. You can mow lawns. You can house-sit. Whatever skill you have, and whatever you decide to do between jobs to bring money in, it's important to the next job you will eventually get.
Running a business requires traits like an entrepreneurial spirit, as well as skills such as attention to detail, organization, money management, and good communication. Whether you run a business through an existing site, or put up a Web site to advertise your services, you're also demonstrating some skills and familiarity with the Internet. Did you use Facebook or Twitter to bring people to your business? Then you have at least a basic understanding of how social media marketing works. Just about anything you do in order to run even the simplest of businesses can be parlayed into skills that look good on a resume, not to mention, you'll be earning an income while you continue to job hunt. It will also prove that you didn't just sit around and wait for someone to offer you a job. You came up with a temporary solution, which shows initiative and ingenuity, two traits highly valued by any smart manager.
Enroll in Continuing Education
If your career field is one that requires some sort of certification, make sure your certification doesn't expire while you're unemployed. If you can walk into a job interview with your certification intact, and ready to work, you're going to have an edge over someone who let theirs lapse, and is perhaps looking for the company to pick up the tab for whatever courses or exams are necessary. That's not an unreasonable request, but in this competitive job market, take every advantage you possibly can to make yourself a more attractive job candidate. And remember, if you pay for your own courses or exams, those expenses may be tax deductible. Again, check with the IRS or an accountant to be sure.
Even if your field doesn't require actual certification, you can still make an effort to keep your skills current, and to keep up with any changes or advances in your industry. Read trade magazines or Web sites. Join professional groups, whether online or in person, and if you can't find one, start one. Take a general business or accounting course, or whatever kind of course falls in line with your previous or desired job. Be proactive. The less time your new employer has to spend training you, or getting you up to speed on changes that may have occurred in your industry since you last worked, the better you're going to look to them as a potential hire.
Finally, take some time to update and spruce up your resume. Is everything included that can be? Have you worded your other activities in positive ways that contribute to your job search? Putting together a good resume can be a difficult process in itself, so consider using a professional resume writing service. Remember, anything that gives you an edge over the job candidates you're competing against is worth the effort.
Leslie Williams is a writer for Jobfox Resumes.
Contributor: Leslie Williams
Published here on: 01-May-11