How to fill resume gaps
Awkward holes in your CV can give you sleepless nights while job hunting. There are some of the experiences, apart from work, that you can highlight to create the best impression.
When you start thinking of your resume as a powerful tool, the results can be astonishing. Ideally your resume should reflect your professional image, reflect your unique skills sets and accomplishments, be easy to understand and most importantly project you as the best candidate for the job. However, there are often some unforeseen circumstances that lead to the accumulation of blank spots on your resume. When you are searching for a job a gap in employment can cause a lot of stress and fear.
What can you do to stop that listless period from burning you down the road? In other words, what can you put on your CV apart from employment/ work history? Are there any significant experiences you have had, or accomplishments you have realized, that have helped to define you as a person? Here’s a quick guide:
Volunteer Work : Your involvement with a local charity could demonstrate that you are a socially responsible individual. With corporate social responsibility becoming a buzzword, this could potentially give you an edge over others. Your extracurricular activities say a lot about your commitment and ability to work with others. Incorporate your volunteer experience under your employment experience section; if asked, you can explain that these gigs were volunteer ones.
Professional Affiliations/Memberships : Include only those that are current, relevant and impressive. Include leadership roles if appropriate. This is a good place to communicate your status as a member of a minority targeted for special consideration by employers, or to show your membership in an association that would enhance your appeal as a prospective employee. This is also a great way to network with fellow professionals and identify jobs that may typically not be advertised.
Travel : Maybe you chose to travel during the gap period. If positioned smartly, you can actually demonstrate how this helped you mature as an individual. Travel cleanses the mind and touches the soul and could stimulate your creative senses. Travel can mean new friends and a reconnect with yourself. You could focus on how travelling has made you a better individual with more favorable characteristics, polished skills, and mature understanding — all of which you are dying to contribute to your new employer. If you visited foreign countries, you may have gained an understanding of that culture and basic language skills. Apart from making you well-rounded, it may come in handy given today’s focus on globalization and international business. Travelling alone is also the quickest and easiest way to grow your independence and gives you time to think and re-evaluate your career goals.
Project/Contractual Work : You could consider taking up contractual or project-based assignments or even consider temporary work while searching for that perfect job. These are great ways of keeping up to date with the changes in your industry. So be open to taking up assignments even if they don’t pay you too well. For example, writing a business report or freelancing for advertising agencies looking for copy writers or working as a phone representative with a local call centre could add key skills to your personality. If you have been published in any trade magazines, it can establish you as a subject matter expert in your domain.
Education/Schooling : You could list educational qualifications ie, degrees first, followed by certificates and advanced training. Set degrees apart so they are easily seen. Put in boldface whatever will be most impressive. Don’t include any details about college except your major and distinctions or awards won, unless you are still in college or only recently graduated. List selected course work if this will help convince the reader of your qualifications for the targeted job.
If you didn’t finish college, start with a phrase describing the field studied, then the school, then the dates (the fact that there was no degree may be missed). Do include advanced training, but be selective with the information, summarizing it and including only what will be impressive for the reader.
Other headings might be ‘Education and Training’, ‘Education and Licenses’, ‘Legal Education / Undergraduate Education’ etc. Rather than boldfacing what is most impressive, leave out what’s secondary or superfluous. The list of qualifications needn’t be an exhaustive one.
Awards : If the only awards received were in school, put these under the education section. Mention what the award was for if you can (or just ‘for outstanding accomplishment’ or ‘outstanding performance’). This section is almost a must, if you have received awards. If you have received commendations or praise from some very senior source, you could call this section, ‘Awards and Commendations’. In that case, go ahead and quote the source.
What’s In It For them? Project The Positive
Your break may have helped you rejuvenate and spend time with the family but think from the perspective of an employer. How do they gain from hiring you? Highlight your accomplishments and help them understands your value.
Life throws up a lot of surprises and you can’t possibly plan for everything. A change in the economy resulting in downsizing, sickness, divorce, the birth of a child or a lot of other unexpected things can keep you away from work for long. It is important to stay positive and let your potential employers know that this gap has rejuvenated you and that you are ready to join the workforce with more passion conviction and commitment.
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