Re-entering the workforce after a period of time away can be a daunting prospect. Whatever the reason you have been away from work whether it is due to personal reasons, a career break, raising a family or illness, your resume is a crucial document to help you back into work. With a little preparation and a well targeted resume, there is no reason why you can’t succeed in your job search, whether you have had a career break of one month or ten years.
It is not uncommon to have a gap or two on your resume, there are lots of reasons why people decide to take some time away from work. Having a break shouldn’t deter you from making that career change you have always wanted or going for that promotion you hoped for. It might just mean that you have to be a little more strategic with your resume.
Before you even start to write your resume, there are some key tasks that you should aim to complete first.
Skills and Experience
The first step in the process is to firstly carry out some research. Depending on the length of time you have been away from work, things may have changed, systems may have been implemented or new qualifications may be required. Make a list of the types of jobs that you would like to apply for, exploring in particular the skills, knowledge and experience that recruiters are looking for. As you browse through the various recruitment websites you will start to develop an idea of the common skills that employers require. Remember, even if you have been out of work for some time, you will still be able to bring a varied and valuable skill set to the job that you would like to apply for so don’t be too disheartened if you feel that your experience is not current.
The trick is to match the skills with the types of jobs that you are hoping to secure with the skills that you already have. There is no doubt that in your previous employment you will have developed a range of soft skills, all of which can be transferred to your new employment. If however, there are significant gaps in your skills or experience you may need to look at some training or voluntary work to acquire these before you can start applying for jobs.
Today’s business environment is evolving at a rapid rate. As a result systems change, ways of working alter and processes become obsolete. Depending on your period of absence from the workplace, you may find that you need to refresh your skills, particularly if you are competing with job seekers who are currently working in the sector or recent graduates. Study courses, fine tune your skills and take aptitude tests to see how you are developing. This is particularly important because an increasing number of employers are using psychometric tests such as CAPP assessment tests or the Myers-Briggs as part of the recruitment process. These tests will specifically measure your competency in certain skills making it vital that you polish and perfect as many relevant skills as you possibly can.
Now that you have a good understanding of the skills employers are looking for and you have recognized any skills that you may need to refresh, you can start to look at drafting your resume.
Top Tips for Updating your Resume
Upgrading your resume after a period of time away from work may be a challenging prospect, but approach it in the right way and you will soon have a polished and professional resume that you will be proud to send to prospective employers.
Remember, career gaps can be used to your advantage. Taking the time to go traveling for example can actually give your career a boost, particularly if you highlight specific skills that you developed during your travels. Explain how you adapted to different cultures and environments or the way you developed your communication skills or a problem that you solved when you encountered an unusual or unforeseen situation. Again, look at the list of skills that you prepared in your initial research to see if any of those are a good fit.
Use a Functional Format
If you have had a lengthy career gap you don’t really want to draw attention to your break from work. In this instance, you may find that a functional resume is a better way of presenting the information without emphasizing a lengthy career break. Functional resumes are based around the core skills required in the jobs that you would like to apply for. Create a list of about four or five skills frequently mentioned in the job description and person specification. Use these skills as headings and then underneath write a series of clear and concise bullet points covering your responsibilities and accomplishments that best demonstrate these skills.
Always remember that when upgrading your CV after a period of work hiatus, your job search will be that little bit more difficult so your resume really does have to be polished, professional and well written. Most importantly it should emphasize the value that you can add if you were appointed.
Sometimes your career gap may just be because you have found it difficult to find employment. This can be a common problem particularly in highly competitive industries. However, this is not something that an employer would need to know. Explain that the time was spent wisely but don’t lie. If you are genuinely unemployed for a long time, volunteer, take a training course or teach yourself something. It is all positives to show an employer what you can bring to their company. Even if you haven’t been traveling, try to turn the career gap into something positive.
All resumes should be as achievements focused as possible. Adding in a series of four or five achievements from your career history can really give your resume a boost. Include things such as awards you received, personal recognition, promotions or a new system or process that you implemented which achieved positive results.
By following the top tips and strategies outlined in this guide, you can write a strong resume even if you have had a lengthy work hiatus.