Monday, September 22, 2014

Back in the Saddle: Re-entering the Job Market

Lately, students have been asking how to deal with gaps in their employment when they’re writing their resumes. These gaps range from stay-at-home parents to returning veterans. They tell me they’re nervous because job descriptions require 3-5 years of experience and they don’t believe they’re qualified. Well, the truth is people step in and out of jobs all the time.  I tell them that if they listed everything they did in their home-jobs or on the battlefield; they might come across as over-qualified. I advise them to consider the following:

Use a hybrid resume format, which is a blend of a skills/functional based and chronological based document.  A chronological resume is the most popular format but if there are holes in your chronology, it might be a red flag. Also, some recruiters say that a pure skills based resume that includes a job history section with no employment dates is a red flag. So, why not mix it up to give the best of both worlds? The hybrid style will start with a robust “Summary of Qualifications” at the top, followed by a “Core Competencies” section. The summary highlights your best practices, what you’re known for and what you’re most proud of as it relates to the job you’re seeking. The competencies section includes the things you know how to do (e.g. balance budgets, cost control, project management, client relations).

List any volunteer or part-time projects or jobs. This shows that you’re putting your skills to work and not just sitting home keeping your couch warm. Any hiring manager will want to see that candidates are “self-sustaining” by proactively taking initiative. Make sure that you create this section to be as “business-like” as possible. You want those who make corporate decisions to take your resume seriously.

Networking… I know! This can be a tiresome buzz word but it still is necessary. Miriam Salpeter, a job search and social media consultant for US News & World Report, strongly advises to take advantage of every kind of networking tool including in-person opportunities. She says that LinkedIn, job clubs and mixers are all “equally important for job seekers who really want to solidify relationships with the potential to earn them introductions to key decision-makers at their target companies”.

Remember, your job search may take time, trial, and error but be patient with yourself and with the process. This is still a brave new world and the rules are in constant flux. Pay attention to how interviews and phone screenings go. Assess how you think you did, celebrate your progress and make course corrections along the way. In the world of job searching, patience and persistence will be your best friends. Giddy up, y’all!