Have you ever gone a year or longer between jobs where you weren't employed? If so, you might be wondering how that could possibly affect future employment. Well, this guide can help with any concerns you may have.
Trying to create a resume can be a nerve-racking process. Those feelings of anxiousness can intensify even more if you have a gap in your work history. Well here’s the good news: you’ll be fine! Regardless of if you’ve been out of work for a year or 5, you aren’t the first and you won’t be the last. With the effect COVID-19 had on us this past year, it’s even more understandable if you’ve spent significant time away from work. This 6-step guide will show you how to navigate creating a resume no matter what your employment history looks like.
Step 1: Be Honest, and Optimistic!
It’s easy to feel like your options are smaller than they really are because of your work history. There are many reasons people take sabbaticals from work; losing a loved one, taking care of family, burnout after spending years in an unhealthy work environment. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to be honest and forthcoming. Employers will understand that some things are more important than work and who knows, maybe they’ve had similar experiences in their own lives. Also, you probably picked up some skills during your break that made you more employable and didn’t even realize it (more on that in the next few steps).
Step 2: Pick the Right Type of Resume
The first step of creating a resume is deciding which format is best for you. The most common resume types are chronological and combination. The chronological resume highlights your work history while the combination resume focuses on your skills. With a gap in your work history, the best option would probably be to go with a combination resume. You will still list your employment experience but the emphasis will be on the skills, abilities, and other traits you bring to the table.
Step 3: Make Your Profile Summary Stand Out
A profile summary/statement, the introduction of your resume, is where you showcase the qualities that make you the best fit for the company you’re applying to. First impressions can be everything, and the profile summary is the first impression of your resume. It can be hard to think of what to put on your profile, but you can start by thinking of three words you would use to describe yourself as a worker. Let’s say your answer is “hard-working, dedicated, organized.” Those three words can be used as a line in your profile summary.
More questions that can help with creating a profile:
What are the most important things you would want a potential employer to know about you?
Can you speak multiple languages?
Have you at any point spent a significant amount of time (5 or more years) working in one industry?
Have you ever received any awards for your work?
These are all things that are relevant regardless of your work history and when they took place. What’s important is finding the qualities about yourself that will really stand out to an employer. If you’re still struggling to create a profile summary, the career coaches at all 13 Richland Library locations can provide you with more in-depth assistance.
What’s an easy way to make your resume stand out? When most hiring managers only look at resumes for a couple seconds, a great profile statement can make your resume shine.
Pro-Tip: Research Employers
Even if you don’t have a specific job you’re ready to apply for, when you’re creating a resume it can be really helpful to research the companies in your field. Read their mission statement and see what qualities they value. Look at their job postings and pay attention to the traits, tasks, and qualities they mention. Mirroring the language employers use will make your resume that much more effective!
Step 4: Focus on Relevant Skills
After your profile statement, most of your resume will be spent outlining your skills. This is when you should start pin-pointing the transferrable skills you have. Transferrable skills are strengths you possess that can help you in multiple aspects of life. People usually only think about these skills in a work setting, but you can also pick up transferrable skills in your everyday life. One of the most important abilities a company looks for is problem-solving. You can pick that skill up by working in a fast-paced environment like a restaurant, but you can also gain experience in problem-solving by raising a family or traveling across Europe for a year. The same can be said for other capabilities like leadership, active listening, etc. The key is figuring out what your best competencies are.
One great resource to use when you’re trying to fill out a resume is O*Net. There you can look up thousands of careers and find lists of skills, work activities, and knowledge about that specific field.
Step 5: Make Your Work Experience Work for You
With a combination resume, usually one of the easiest sections to fill out is employment experience because you can list the jobs you’ve had without having to go into detail about specific tasks you did. With a gap in your work history, this section is still relatively easy but there are some extra things to consider. With resumes we usually would recommend only mentioning work experience within the past 10 years, but if most of your relevant work experience is further back, you should still include it. Even if you haven’t been consistently employed, employers still want to see that you have experience working. When listing the jobs you’ve had, some people recommend omitting the months you started/ended working and only listing years (2019-2020 instead of 02/2019-03/2020), the reason being that it can make gaps look less obvious. I think it’s best to still include months so it doesn’t seem as if you’re hiding something.
While you may not explicitly go into detail about your gap on a resume, as you move further along in your job search (cover letters, interviews) you’ll want to have an explanation prepared. Employers want to know that you’ve spent the time you haven’t been working preparing to re-enter the workforce. What can you do to prepare, you ask? Our final step gives you a few ideas.
Step 6: Do Things to Narrow the Gap!
The jobs you’ve had aren’t the only thing potential employers are impressed by, there’s a lot of other ways you can prepare to re-enter the workforce. One of the best approaches is to volunteer. By volunteering, you get a great chance to help out your community and also show an employer that you’ve been consistently productive regardless of if you’ve been employed or not. Not to mention, volunteering can be a great way to network. Networking is still the best way to get a job (according to LinkedIn, 80% of professionals consider networking important to career success). Get to know the people that you volunteer with and when an appropriate opportunity comes up, let them know that you’re looking for employment (don’t just ask people to hire you). You never know, one of those people could eventually be the x-factor in you getting a job. If volunteering doesn’t interest you, you can also try blogging, taking free educational courses online, coaching youth sports, etc.
VolunteerMatch is a great resource to find local volunteering opportunities.
I hope this guide has helped anyone looking to create a resume, especially those with a gap in their work history. Though the past can’t be changed, the important thing is that you’re feeling confident and prepared to work again. Some people may feel content with a completed resume, while others might be asking themselves “What about when I write my cover letter?” or “What will I say if I’m asked about the gap in an interview?” For anyone seeking additional help, the Career Coaches at Richland Library are available to assist with any concerns you may have in regards to current or future employment.
Looking for more information?
Set up a virtual meeting with one of our certified Career Coaches through the Book a Learning Coach form or by calling 803-929-3400. After you submit, we will contact you to set an appointment. Our team provides help with interviewing skills, your résumé, interest/skills assessments, and more. Follow Richland Library on LinkedIn for career development tips and tidbits.