Addressing Employment Gaps and Career Changes in Your Resume
A resume is often the first impression potential employers have of you which is why it is important that you know the best way to address employment gaps and career changes in your resume. It serves as your professional snapshot, showcasing your skills, experiences, and suitability for the opportunity you applied for. However, for many job seekers, the task of crafting a compelling resume can be daunting, especially when dealing with employment gaps or career changes. These factors, if not properly addressed, can potentially raise red flags for hiring managers.
This article delves into how to create an effective career change resume, strategies for explaining gaps in your resume, and how to develop a persuasive narrative even with significant employment gaps. It’s not about hiding these aspects, but strategically presenting them to reflect your professional growth, adaptability, and resilience.
Understanding the Impact of Employment Gaps and Career Changes
Employment gaps and career changes are common occurrences in the modern workforce. However, it’s crucial to understand how they might be perceived by potential employers.
Career changes are often viewed through a lens of adaptability and resilience. They signify your ability to learn new skills, adapt to different industries, and face new challenges. However, hiring managers might question your commitment and consistency if the changes seem too frequent or not clearly justified.
Employment gaps, on the other hand, might raise concerns about your current skill level and relevance in the industry. While recruiters understand that employment gaps can occur for a variety of reasons – such as a layoff, family commitments, health issues, significant other expat assignments, or personal development – unexplained gaps can leave room for negative assumptions.
However, it’s important to remember that these are not insurmountable obstacles. They don’t have to negatively impact your chances of landing a job if they’re addressed strategically. For instance, a career change resume, which focuses on transferable skills and relevant experiences, can effectively showcase your suitability for a new role. Similarly, explaining gaps in your resume by highlighting productive activities during these periods can turn potential weaknesses into strengths.
The key lies in understanding how to present these aspects of your career journey. It’s about highlighting growth, progress, and the adaptability that comes from these experiences, rather than letting them stand as gaps in your professional narrative. The following sections will delve deeper into how to achieve this.
The Career Change Resume
A career change resume is a powerful tool for job seekers venturing into new industries or job roles. It is structured to emphasize your transferable skills and relevant experiences rather than linear professional progression.
To begin with, you more than likely will be opting for a combination resume format. This focuses more on skills and achievements instead of chronological work history or skills-based (functional). Highlight transferable skills at the forefront of your resume. These are abilities you’ve acquired that can be used in your desired role, even if they were earned in a different industry. For instance, project management, communication, problem-solving, and leadership skills are valuable across a wide range of job roles.
In the experience section, rather than just listing your previous job roles and responsibilities, focus on accomplishments that demonstrate your transferrable skills. Use quantifiable metrics where possible to illustrate the impact you had in your previous roles.
Lastly, make your career objective clear in your professional summary and cover letter (if applicable). State your career change intention and what you bring to the table. This can help connect the dots for hiring managers and give context to your application.
Functional resumes, also known as skills-based resumes, are less commonly used in today’s job search. It’s important to note that many websites still tout the benefits because they help discretely hide changing careers, noticeable employment gaps, or diverse range of experiences because you focus more on skills and achievements instead of chronological work history.
However, some hiring managers may be skeptical of functional resumes, as they’re often used to hide something, like employment gaps or a lack of relevant experience. Therefore, it’s crucial to use this format strategically and understand that some employers may prefer the combination format.
Recent years, the trend has been towards a combination or hybrid resume, which incorporates elements of both chronological and functional formats. This offers a balanced approach, enabling you to highlight your skills while also providing a clear, chronological view of your work history. It’s always important, however, to consider the specific requirements and expectations of the industry and role you’re applying to when deciding which format to use.
Explaining Gaps in Resume
Employment gaps can occur for numerous reasons: taking time off for personal growth, raising a family, health issues, or even involuntary unemployment. However, an unexplained gap in a resume might lead employers to make their own assumptions. To prevent this, it’s crucial to address these gaps and frame them positively. It’s important to note that depending on the current and recent environment, such as large scale layoffs, recession, or pandemic, career gaps are viewed considerably more friendly than during a time when the job market is booming.
Firstly, honesty is vital. You don’t need to detail every aspect of your life, but don’t try to hide the gaps. Instead, if the gap is less than a year, you might not need to mention it at all. Many recruiters don’t dwell on short gaps as job hunting can take time.
If the gap is significant, use it as an opportunity to showcase your initiative and growth. If you engaged in any activities related to personal or professional development during this period, be sure to include them. This could be freelancing, volunteer work, courses taken, starting a consulting business, or any way to show professional development.
Remember, your aim is to show potential employers that even during a break in employment, you were proactive and continued to develop relevant skills that can be advantageous in the job role you’re applying for.
Creating a Resume With Gaps
Creating a resume with gaps can seem challenging, but with strategic planning and relevant language, you can craft a compelling resume. The approach you choose largely depends on the length of the employment gap and how recent it was.
For shorter gaps or those that occurred a few years ago, you may not need to mention them directly in your resume. In such cases, you can simply use years, rather than months and years, to list your employment dates, thus downplaying shorter breaks.
You left the workforce in March 2022 and landed your next opportunity in January 2023:
Company Name, City, State – 2023 – Present
Company Name, City, State – 2015 – 2022
For more significant gaps, it’s important to address them in your resume. One approach is to include a brief note in the work history section, explaining the gap in a positive and concise manner. Another option is to use a combination format resume that emphasizes skills and achievements and balances the chronological work history.
During gaps, any activity that contributed to your professional development is relevant. Did you take a course, volunteer, freelance, or do consulting work? This information helps to fill in the gap and shows you made good use of your time off. Remember, the aim is to reassure employers that your skills are up to date and relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Caregiver, City, State – 2020 – Present
Add a bullet if relevant such as:
Furloughed and transitioned to full-time caregiver during COVID-19.
Company Name, City, State – 2015 – 2020
Strategies and Best Practices
Addressing employment gaps and career changes requires honesty, positivity, and a focus on growth. Here are some strategies and best practices to achieve this:
- Transparency: Be open about your career gaps or changes without getting too personal. Honesty is appreciated by employers and helps to build trust.
- Highlight Transferable Skills: In a career change resume, emphasize the skills that are relevant to the new job role. Show how these skills can translate into success in the new position. In some cases, you may wish to address in the professional summary the reason for the career change. This could be because you were in an industry that has a smaller presence in the new state that you relocated to resulting in a required career change.
- Relevant Language: Use language and terms relevant to the industry you’re moving into. This shows your familiarity and engagement with the industry.
- Keyword Optimization: Make sure your resume includes keywords from the job description. This can make your resume more noticeable, especially to automated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). In some cases if you have a skills section on your resume (sometimes called Areas of Expertise or Core Competencies), consider changing the language to ‘Areas of Expertise and Interest.’ In this case, you can then add skills that you don’t current have – such as Project Coordination/Management.
- Focus on Achievements: Show potential employers what you’ve achieved, not just what you’ve done. Use quantifiable achievements to demonstrate your impact in previous roles.
- Professional Development: If you’ve taken courses, gained certifications, or participated in relevant projects during your career gap, highlight these. They demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning and adaptability.
Remember, every job seeker’s path is unique. Use these strategies and best practices as a guide to navigate employment gaps and career changes in a way that aligns with your personal journey.
Addressing employment gaps and making a career change can seem daunting, but with strategic thinking and careful crafting of your resume, these perceived obstacles can be transformed into opportunities. Creating an effective career change resume, or designing a resume with gaps, is not about hiding your past but rather emphasizing the wealth of experience, skills, and adaptability you bring.
Honesty, relevant language, and focusing on achievements and professional development are key to explaining gaps in your resume. Remember, your resume should tell your unique career story. Every experience, change, or gap is a part of this journey, demonstrating your resilience, adaptability, and dedication to professional growth.
By leveraging these strategies and best practices, you can build a compelling narrative that showcases your skills, experience, and suitability for the role you seek. Your career path, with all its twists and turns, is a testament to your unique abilities. Let your resume reflect that.
About Simply Great Resumes
Simply Great Resumes is an Executive and Professional Resume Writing Service located in Milwaukee (previously Minneapolis) who partners with business leaders and emerging professionals within Global Fortune 500, large private, mid-sized, and start-up enterprises since 2012.
A solopreneur business, Simply Great Resumes is owned by Kerry Gustafson. Kerry is a recognized, award-winning professional who holds industry-leading certifications – Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), Certified Career Coach (CPCC), and Certified Interview Coach (CEIC) through the first association for career professionals in the world, PARW/CC. Dedicated to partnering and delivering on client career goals and branding strategies, Kerry holds an incredible industry-high referral rate. Year over year she exceeds 90%. This is a testament to the results she delivers and the value she provides to her high-performing clients.