By Alex Harrington, Executive Director (Acting)
During one of our recent webinars (Making Your Federal Resume Shine, Sep. 14), an attendee asked, “How do I handle employment gaps in my resume?”
This was definitely not the first time I was asked about how to address resume employment gaps. In fact, this issue is one of the top concerns for many job seekers today, especially for those who’ve lost their jobs due to the pandemic. But the issue with employment gaps is not with the break of employment; instead, it is with how the job seeker perceives their employment gap.
Many job seekers look at their employment gap as, if you will, a shameful scarlet letter that will follow them for the rest of their work life. This is attested by a recent LinkedIn survey of 2,000 U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 74, who experienced job loss between mid-March and mid-October. And of those surveyed, 84% believed that there is a stigma connected with being out of work, and about 67% of those surveyed are convinced that stigma is adversely affecting their job search.
However, a job seeker’s perception of employment gaps differs greatly with what a hiring manager actually understands about job candidates in today’s job market that is plagued – no pun intended – by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to another LinkedIn survey of 1,000 hiring managers, 96% would hire a candidate who was laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a former hiring manager 99% of my attention was deciding on the suitability of the candidate, not whether they were employed or not. Especially with [COVID-19] I think it’s even less of an issue to explain a gap. I say don’t draw attention to it” said Simon Scantlebury, Executive Career and Mind Coach.
So, if you were laid off…furloughed…or lost your job completely due to the current economic situation, please try not to despair. An employment gap on your resume doesn’t have to be a shameful scarlet letter that will follow you for the rest of your work life.
Here is some helpful advice to address the employment gap in a positive, constructive way.
Fill an employment gap with productivity. You do not have to have a paid job to be productive. Non-paid work is still ‘work.’ If you are an accountant or auditor, there are non-profits in need of individuals who can teach their community members money management skills or small community programs to develop financial books, file taxes, etc. And by doing so, you will keep your skills sharp and ready when a job offer does come your way.
Consider using other resume formats. If your employment gap is longer than three months on your chronological resume, consider using a functional or combination resume format. A functional resume highlights your skills and experience, while a combination is a mix between a chronological resume and a functional resume.
Take the opportunity to develop yourself. If finances permit, take this opportunity to acquire additional certifications in your career industry. Or perhaps audit a course at a college or university. Regardless of how you acquire new knowledge or skills, hiring managers are looking for candidates who possess a bent to life-long learning. In fact, recruiters will consider hiring a candidate that lacks industry knowledge as long as they show that they can quickly grasp new concepts.
Explain how an employment gap was its own job. Sometimes life just happens to throw us a curveball: caring for a sick relative, taking time off to raise kids, or fighting cancer. Life is just that way. No one can stop. No one is immune to it. Life hits all. And we all have to walk through it. So, as a job seeker, you can overcome an employment gap by explaining what you were doing during your employment gap. For example, if you spent two years taking care of a sick loved one, then describe how you worked as a primary caregiver. And if a hiring manager doesn’t give you credit on this, then they are the type of boss you don’t want to work for anyway!
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To find ways to volunteer and keep your skills sharp check out https://www.idealist.org/en/.
And if you’re ready to earn a new credential check out https://www.vaready.org/.
Learn more about different types of resumes at https://www.thebalancecareers.com/resume-types-chronological-functional-combination-2063235
Ready to create a new resume, check out CareerOneStop’s resume guide https://www.careeronestop.org/JobSearch/Resumes/ResumeGuide/Introduction.aspx
And you can check out below the different types of resume formats and their descriptions.
Please follow us on Twitter @FedCareer and join our Federal Career Connection page on LinkedIn or find us on Meetup at meetup.com/mbc-cnm.To get updates on upcoming workshops and career coaching sessions, visit https://federalcareerconnection.org/2021-fcc-calendar/
Author: Alex Harrington is currently a Federal civil servant and a Certified Career Services Provider and Global Career Development Facilitator. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a Persian Gulf War veteran.