Job-search strategies for handling an employment gap

Posted by Amanda Augustine

October 01, 2013 @ 08:00 AM

Overcome a resume gap when you’re back in the job hunt with these five tips.

Skipper_ResumeIn today’s tough economy, many professionals find themselves with substantial gaps in their work experience. Whether you were laid off, took some time to care for a family member or battled a serious illness, it can be challenging to explain these gaps in your resume. Here are five tips to help you handle the employment gap during your job search.

Consider a function resume

If your recent experience doesn’t support your job goals or you’ve been unemployed for a long period of time, consider using a functional resume format. Instead of listing your work experience in reverse-chronological order, focus on highlighting your relevant skills. Underneath each of these skills, list the work experience and accomplishments that demonstrate your related expertise. While recruiters aren’t fans of this format, sometimes this is the best way to position your skills and experience.

Identify skill boosters

Look for internships, volunteer opportunities, online courses or certification programs, and participate in workshops that can help you fill in skill gaps, build experience in your target field, and improve your marketability. If you decide to volunteer, choose opportunities where you can leverage your professional experience and strengthen your core skill set.

Play up your unpaid experience

Just because you weren’t paid to work doesn’t mean you can’t include those experiences in your resume. If you volunteered or took on an unpaid internship, include it in your work history. Write it as you would any other position by describing your role and responsibilities in two or three lines and highlighting your major contributions or accomplishments in bullets. Make sure you play up the skills and activities that are most relevant to your current career goals.

Treat freelance work as full-time positions

Many professionals turn to consulting gigs between full-time positions. If you worked as a freelancer, incorporate this experience into your resume. Use the role description to explain the types of services you provided, and save the bullets to describe specific projects with clients. This is a great way to name-drop your well-known clients and explain how your work delivered results. I recommend highlighting no more than five of your most noteworthy projects.

Lean on your network

Subscribe to publications and join associations related to your line of work and industry. Not only will these tactics open the door to relevant networking events and potential volunteer opportunities, but it will help you stay current with your industry’s news and latest trends. In addition, the websites for these publications and associations often include a career section or job board to expand your list of potential leads. If you’ve battled a disease such as cancer, look for organizations that provide career resources such as cancerandcareers.org.

Click on the following links for more information on employment gaps, and how to address a pink slip during the interview.

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Amanda Augustine is the Job Search Expert for TheLadders. She provides job search and career guidance for professionals looking to make their next career move. Have a question for Amanda? Submit your question here for a chance to have it answered in her weekly column, and be sure to follow her at @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and “Like” her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute job-search advice.

Topics: Ask Amanda, Resume & Cover Letters