The days of employees staying with one company for 10, 15, even 20 years are long gone for most.
Unemployment across Australia is at its highest level in 12 years, and almost 40% of Australian jobs could be eliminated by technology within the next 10 to 15 years.
The employment market is markedly less secure than it’s been before, and redundancy is not unusual.
At the same time, changing attitudes to work mean many professionals are demanding a better work/life balance. Having a personal life and having a career are increasingly seen as complementary, not conflicting, goals and it’s more usual for professionals to take time out.
In other words, a career gap is an increasingly common phenomenon, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty over how best to address that gap in a resume.
Re-entering the workplace can feel like an insurmountable goal.
The hiring landscape is competitive and a career gap can feel like an obvious disadvantage – but it really doesn’t have to be.
1. Highlight Transferable Skills.
Whether you were bringing up children or caring for an elderly relative, travelling or focussing on personal development, you bring a diversity of experience that a colleague without those experiences will lack.
It’s common advice that jobseekers with a large career gap should only display years on their resume, or create a ‘functional resume’, listing roles by type instead of in date order in an attempt to conceal a gap.
Often, this isn’t the best way.
Instead, confront your career gap head-on and explain how you used the time constructively. It often works well to create a separate ‘Additional Career History’ or ‘Personal Development’ section on your resume dedicated to this.
This doesn’t just apply if you’ve been overtly pursuing development opportunities.
Certainly, if you’ve had time to volunteer, take a course or learn a new skill, it can be easier to pull these skills out on your resume, but it’s applicable in almost every situation.
Caring for an elderly relative or a child has been an opportunity to develop your communication and negotiation skills, for example, and has likely improved your ability to resolve conflict.
You’ve probably honed strengths in multitasking and can better handle administrative tasks; your ability to work under extreme pressure has obvious application in the professional sphere.
By pulling out the transferable skills you developed during your career gap, you can frame that gap as a positive, differentiating feature on your resume, rather than an inconvenience to be glossed.
2. Show You’ve Stayed Up-to-Date.
An HR manager and talent acquisition leader for many years, I’ve reviewed my fair share of resumes.
I can tell you from experience that the main concern I’d have when considering a candidate with a large career gap is any possible knowledge gap. Particularly within fast-moving industries such as digital (and – let’s face it – every industry today can be considered digital), I’d need to see tangible evidence that someone had kept their finger on the pulse during their time off.
Including the likes of any industry events or relevant courses goes some way towards assuaging that fear, showing that you’ve stayed on top of industry trends.
Publishing content is another effective way to demonstrate current knowledge; if you’re tight on time, it’s a task that can easily fit around personal responsibilities.
3. Focus on the Bigger Picture.
A resume isn’t simply a list of previous jobs. A great resume tells a story, weaving an overall narrative of who you are professionally; the value you add.
This becomes more important if you’ve had a large career gap.
If you approach your resume as a list, that gap will tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Instead of viewing each role as a series of discrete occurrences, focus on constructing an overarching story – in which each role is valuable for its contribution to the whole.
This maybe seems a little intangible. In concrete terms, focus on creating a really exceptional introductory paragraph or summary at the beginning of your resume. This paragraph should focus on your professional value in holistic terms, and every role you’ve had will feed into it.
The summary should be the last thing you write. Outline the roles you’ve held and focus in on the core mandate of each, and your tangible achievements that show you met that mandate.
Over the course of writing, certain themes will recur – maybe it’s driving growth in complex stakeholder environments. Maybe it’s championing positive cultural change in the face of resistance.
Whatever it is, pulling out this core theme takes the focus off your career gap and places it onto your value as a potential employee.
Key Point To Remember.
It’s no longer unusual to have a career gap, and there’s no reason one should have a negative effect on your job application.
A few careful tweaks to your resume will ensure that you position yourself competitively, and will give you the best chances of finding your next career move.
To get step-by-step instructions on how to do so, check out my complimentary Guide To Repairing Your Resume.
Irene McConnell is the founder of Arielle Careers, Australia’s sole digital agency dedicated to branding executives and their leadership teams. Arielle specialises in resume writing, LinkedIn profile writing and online influence management.
Offering a portfolio of products born from our deep understanding of the global talent market overlaid with forward-thinking and reinvented digital marketing capabilities, a passion for words and their ability to capture attention, Arielle processes are tailored to work within executives’ busy schedules, delivering bespoke, painless and professional service, and individualised products that garner results, quickly. Arielle strive to produce engaging and impactful human experiences.