By Yvonne Milosevic
Have you had to hit the pause button on your career due to health issues, or to care for a child or ailing family member? Absences like these can happen to anyone at any time. But take heart. Long-term resume and career gaps don’t have to spell doom for your future career prospects. When you’re ready to get back into the workforce, review these tips to help smooth the path for your re-entry.
Be honest about career gaps
First, explain the gap with confidence in both your resume and (fingers crossed!) the interview. Be as transparent as possible, and don’t leave anything open to interpretation. Tell what you did or learned during the unaccounted-for time. That way, you remove any ambiguity that could otherwise lead to adverse inferences. Showing how you adapted to challenging circumstances or forged a new path during a unique period in your life can work to your benefit.
Shine a spotlight on skills
When you refresh your CV, consider using a skills-based resume format rather than a chronological one. Highlight specific skills and experience that support your qualifications for the position. Employment history still appears at the bottom of this type of resume. But a functional resume format can help camouflage career gaps.
Where possible, highlight new skills gained during the gap period. Remember, growth doesn’t stop when you’re no longer active in a 9-5 capacity. Did you take any professional classes or pursue a certification? What about volunteer work, freelance gigs, or professional organizations?
Also, don’t underestimate the importance of soft skills. These include communication and problem-solving skills, teamwork, and the ability to perform under pressure. Provide clear examples that show how you continued to hone these skills during that time out of the workforce.
Maximize the powers of LinkedIn
Reach out to contacts and explain that you’re in “information-gathering mode” right now. This approach, Cohen says, “reassures your contact that you’re not looking to ask for a job.”
Prep for the camera
Given the pandemic, a potential employer’s first impression of you will likely happen over Skype, Zoom, or HireVue. Have a pre-rehearsed script ready to discuss those career gaps or transition goals, suggests Cohen. (Check out her scripts for how to explain a variety of career break scenarios.)
Most important: practice succinct responses for all the common questions. Record yourself as you answer. Next, have a friend review your responses and give feedback on you how you’re coming across. Then, tweak your style as needed.
“When you first start having these conversations, you might not sound that good,” Cohen says. “These are interview rehearsals. The more you have, the better you’ll sound when it counts in the interview itself.”
With a little bit of confidence and ample preparation, your responses can make the hiring manager think, “We just have to meet this person!”
So, relax and have faith in both your career successes and detours. It’s all in how you paint the picture.