DEAR JOYCE: Laid off last week, I'm beginning to sort out my options. (I wasn't fired and was liked by my bosses and colleagues.) Where do I start finding another decent job? And how do I explain the 3.5-year gap in my working years when I spent time traveling, studying independently and helping my parents with home renovations? I also spent 1.5 years caring for my grandmother, who was terminally ill. I wasn't in jail and I don't have any skeletons in my closet. I was just busy living life and never found the right place.
Firms are rejecting me because of the gaps. I can talk about my gaps comfortably and positively, but I'm not sure what to do about it on my resume. Can you offer me some input about this situation? -- N.O.
Thanks for the cue to mention a topic stunningly overlooked by far too many job seekers, to their disadvantage -- job search preparation.
PREPARATION IS ESSENTIAL.
"Athletes prepare by not only conditioning their bodies but also watching hours of game film on the competition, eating properly, getting enough rest and learning the playbook," Davidson says.
Adding that firefighters also shape up before going to blazes, Davidson says: "Firefighters have extensive preparation to maintain equipment, train for life-threatening situations and maintain fitness to function with 60 pounds of gear on their back. The preparation you do prior to a job search isn't much different."
KEY FREE ADVICE.
Davidson, the co-founder of
The booklet's title is drawn from an
RESUME GAP SOLUTIONS.
As you gear up for a new job search, include research on you'll handle your gap problem.
Your work history will look less vulnerable when presented in a functional style, also called a skills style. The main idea is that you communicate up front what you can do in the future for an employer (rather than the traditional reverse-chronological listing of what you've done in the past).
Advice on repairing resume holes has become a cottage industry, but however you handle it, remember two powerful principles:
1. Present the time gap as a positive event.
2. Detail why it made you a better worker -- not a better person, but a better worker with more favorable characteristics, polished skills and mature understanding, all of which you're eager to contribute to your new employer's profit lines.
One approach: You can do the heavy lifting in a cover letter that accompanies your resume. You might say something like this:
"After completing college, fueled by my ability as a hard-working, analytical learner, I completed independent studies in --. I also traveled extensively to develop my understanding of the real world and how it works. Additionally, as my family had deferred home-maintenance costs to pay for my education, I cheerfully learned the basic purchasing and repair skills I needed to effectively pitch in on our successful home-renovation project."
As you cruise the Web for resume examples that illustrate gap-repair techniques, keep an eye out for the work of the late Yana Parker, who created some of the best.
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