Thursday, March 5, 2009

"Minding the Gap" When Returning to the Workforce

The recruiters here at DISCOVER STAFFING are always talking to individuals who have been out of the corporate world for one reason or another and are now looking to return. Here is an article from JobBound that gives some practical advice for how to tackle a resume with gaps of employment.

Mind the Gap: Tips for Re-entering the Workforce
by Brad Karsh, President, JobBound

It’s perceived to be one of the most difficult transitions in life: rejoining the workforce after an extended layoff. Maybe you were raising your children, maybe you were caring for a relative, or maybe you were downsized and had trouble finding a job. In any case, it’s a daunting proposition to pull out the business suit, polish up the resume and start looking for a job.

To be sure, it’s not an easy task, but if you prepare appropriately, and attack the search smartly, it’s not as intimidating as you may think.

With the right Mindset, the proper downtime Approach, and some specific Strategies, you can get back out there and land work.

The Mindset
You have a gap in your resume.

So what!

There is this obsession that having a gap in your resume is a horrible sin. It’s not. The fact is, it’s incredibly common these days. Layoffs unfortunately are an everyday occurrence. Work/life balance awareness has increased to the point where more people are taking time off for personal reasons.

Twenty years ago, the typical job situation had the male breadwinner getting a job out of college and spending the rest of his career working for one company until his gold-watch retirement party at age 55.

Those days are long gone.

There’s no need for you to be shy about the fact that there’s a gap in your resume. You are part of a large and growing population of job seekers that have taken time off for a variety of reasons. There’s no need to fret.

The Approach
The biggest issue that employers have with employees returning to the workforce is their perceived lack of being "out of the game." Technology, industry trends, and job skills can all change rapidly over the course of a couple of years.

As such, you want to make sure that you can show your aptitude in some of these areas. Take computer classes, get involved with trade organizations, and stay abreast of industry happenings by reading trade publications during your time off. It does take some time, but not nearly as much as working full time.

Then when it comes time to interview you’ll be able to say something like, "I knew it would be important for me to stay current on my computer skills, so I took classes in the most recent version of Microsoft Office while I was taking care of a relative."

The Strategy
Packaging your "gap" in a resume or on an interview takes careful consideration. Don’t try tricks like changing dates or writing about how you honed your managerial skills negotiating with three children under the age of ten. Recruiting Directors simply want to know that you’re in the game and ready to contribute.

Of course it would always be ideal to be able to tell your story in person, but often you don’t have the luxury of meeting someone face to face. As such, the cover letter becomes a great tool to let a potential employer know about your resume gap and why it’s not a big deal.

Mention why you’re reentering the workforce now
"I had always wanted to return to the workplace, and now that my children are in school full-time, it’s the perfect opportunity."

Talk about how you stayed in the game
"I wanted to stay involved in nonprofit as much as I could after our company closed our office, so I’ve volunteered at the American Cancer Society and took an online class in development."

Ultimately it’s not going to be easy to get back out there. But with the right game plan, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think.