When you have a gap in your resume, you must find a way to turn it into a positive. Let me give you three examples:
- Time off to travel – Travel is a great educational experience, which is what you need to communicate in your resume. Do not say, “After graduation I needed to take a vacation”, or “Due to the stress of my job I needed a break”. One alternative that I have successfully used with other professionals is to say, “Extensive travel throughout Europe to gain international exposure, increase my language skills and understand cultural differences: Rome, Paris, London, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Prague, Athens and Vienna”.
Another way to express your rationale is to relate the travel to your industry goal: “By researching and visiting major companies in the consumer industry along with their competitors, my goal is to understand the underlying issues and potential solutions for my next job assignment”.
- Time to care for a sick relative – Hiring organizations want to be sure that the issues are behind you and will not interfere with your new job. They need to know what’s different now than before when you stopped working. Since it would be illegal for the hiring organization to ask many of these personal questions, initiate answers to the questions they cannot ask.
Make sure a hiring organization knows that you have a plan and show that you’re ready to do the job. Your need to demonstrate that you have kept up to date with industry standards, functional knowledge and skill development (especially technology) and have not fallen behind.
- Time between jobs – There are a number of different situations. One example is being outplaced through reorganization. This is relatively easy to communicate as most everyone has personal experiences. The question is: Why were you chosen to leave? Some answers are: “The acquiring organization put all of their people in place without other considerations”, or “I was the junior person in a consolidation”, or “The functions of our department were outsourced”.
Another situation is the problem of moving into a different industry. This is tricky because the question is: When things turn around, will you go back? Your job is to convince the hiring organization that you want and need a new experience because: The industry you are in is on a decline, or your skills are not central to the industry, or your functional responsibilities are not being used to increase revenue or decrease costs, or you are looking for an organization in a growth mode where you can contribute to the success of the business.
If you have a history of high performance, have a state-of-the-art set of skills but find a hiring manager who is concerned about a short gap between jobs, then that’s probably not the right place for you. Keep your search strategy on full power and the right position will come your way.
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