Whether you took time off to raise a family or you’re experiencing a bout of unemployment following a layoff, explaining an employment gap can prove difficult for any professional.
What’s worse, some hiring managers stigmatised periods of unemployment they see on résumés and often don’t realise when they discriminate unfairly against candidates who have been out of work for some time.
But Amanda Augustine, a career-advice expert for TopRésumé, says there are a few proactive approaches you can take to fill in the gaps if your work history has experienced a roadblock or two along the way.
Seek out skill-based volunteer roles or internships
“You don’t have to receive a paycheck for your work in order to put it on your résumé,” Augustine tells Business Insider.
Rather than fill your free time with a low-level job that doesn’t utilise your skills, which researchers have found could work against you in the job hunt, Augustine suggests checking out volunteer matching resources like Catchafire and Hands On Network to find skill-based volunteer opportunities or FlexJobs for flexible and telecommuting internships that will allow you to keep your skills sharp.
“Describe each opportunity as you would a paid job by listing your responsibilities and highlighting your major contributions and accomplishments,” she says.
Don’t discount your stay-at-home skills
If you left your job to care for your family, you should include the experience on your résumé, Augustine says.
“There are many skills you may have honed during your years of managing the household and raising your kids,” she explains. “Consider all the times you’ve relied on your budgeting and expense control, fundraising, logistics and project management, and negotiation skills over the years and find concrete examples you can list on your résumé.”
Coaching your kid’s soccer team, becoming a troop leader, or heading a school committee are all great examples of team management and leadership, and Augustine suggests quantifying your home-management achievements by including details like budget sizes and number of volunteers you managed.
Seek out professional development opportunities
“Show prospective employers that you’ve been making good use of your unemployment by learning a new skill or technology that’s considered valuable in your field,” Augustine suggests.
From becoming more productive to communicating better, Coursera offers a number of courses that can help you hone skills that are useful to have in the working world. You can also check out SkillShare, edX, Lynda.com, and CourseHorse for other free and low-cost courses.
Once you’ve successfully completed a course, you can include it in the “Education and Professional Development” section of your résumé.
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