There are resume gaps and then there are resume gaps.
The first gap is because of stupidity. You robbed the Bank of England. You got caught. You did your time. So what do you put on your resume? I was stupid. I robbed the Bank of England. I got caught. I did my time. And this is what I learned.
Given that this is such an emotional topic for some people, I thought I would begin with a bit of levity. Hopefully it worked. (Actually, it’s not such a bad idea!)
Now let’s get serious.
The first type of gap is that caused by a personal situation. Usually this is being a caregiver for an elderly relative. Under “Work Experience,” list it as follows:
Caregiver (Parent had Alzheimer’s) 2013-2016
- Scheduling of appointments
- Dealing with insurance issues
- Interacting with medical staff
- Vetting recreational, health and social facilities
- Securing a residence (“adult-proofing”)
- Learning patience
I worked for a number of years in a nursing home and think this list is accurate; I know it is incomplete. What employer would not want someone who has been through this, there’s no better word for it, hell? If I had a client, an employer, who was looking to fill a Customer Service position, this is the person I would want to submit.
The next type of gap is that which is due to the fact that you lost your job, for whatever reason, and have not been able to find employment for some time. In this case I would suggest the following.
Under “Work Experience,” for your most recent “job” write, “Employment Related Activities.” What you want to do is to show the employer that you are not the type of person who remains idle. You want the employer to see that you don’t waste your time. During your unemployment you have bettered yourself. This is what I mean:
Employment Related Activities 2012 – Present
- Completed the following on-line courses:
- Took the following non-profession related assignments:
- Established a professional networking group on LinkedIn resulting in:
XYZ Corporation, New York, NY 2009 – 2012
- Identify prospects
- Prepare marketing materials
- Oversee social media
(XYZ is included just for the visual.)
Let’s look at each of the “Activities” individually:
Completed the following on-line courses:
The message you are sending to the employer is that you are current in your field. Of course, the courses do not have to only be “on-line.” In-person classes are even more valuable because they will expand your network as you interact with faculty and students. And if they result in a certification or license, so much the better. Anything that can increase your value to an employer will aid in getting you hired.
Took the following non-profession related assignments:
Now you can show that you can leave your ego at the door and do what you have to do to pay your bills. So what if you drive for Uber? Or stock the shelves at the local supermarket? That is nothing of which to be ashamed!
Established a professional networking group on LinkedIn resulting in:
There’s what I call a con, a lie, phoniness. People put on their LinkedIn profiles that they are the “Founder” of a something that sounds impressive but is either non-existent or a LinkedIn group. It’s nonsense and really won’t full anyone. But if it is real, include it on your resume.
What constitutes “real?” Having the answers to these questions: How many members do you have? How did you get them? What is their average involvement? How many discussions are there? How many comments? What, in general is the level of involvement and interaction? How many real relationships do you know about that have come from involvement in the group?
The beauty of a real group is that it will raise your professional reputation. But it will take a lot of work and a lot of time, time which may be better spent networking in the real world. There are only so many hours in the day so you have to decide where your time is best spent.
When you volunteer you are actually doing work, albeit without monetary compensation. The key is to make certain you are using your professional skills and not stuffing envelopes. You want to accomplish three goals: (1) help the cause; (2) keep sharp professionally; and (3) be seen by people who will value the quality of your efforts and either offer you a job or help you obtain a job. Volunteering is a great way to feel useful, stay sharp, gain new meaningful experiences, and expand your network.
Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. Visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about the latest questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.