Okay, let’s hit the bane of the accompanying partner or traveler’s resume existence- gaps in your resume. First off though I’m going to rephrase this. You do not have gaps in your resume; you have gaps in your employment history. Unless you’ve been living in a cave my guess is you’ve developed skills and experience whilst not being in paid employment. Come to think of it even if you have been living in a cave you’ve developed skills and experience.
Now, I’m not naive. I know that some employers will overlook candidates who have gaps in their employment history and unfortunately there’ s not much you can do if you fall victim to that approach (but do you want to work for someone like that anyway??). However, there are plenty of other employers out there who are more interested in what you have done than what you haven’t. In order to convince employers you are the right candidate though you have to believe it yourself. So, stop focusing on what you didn’t do in those years between paid jobs and start focusing on what you did do and how that makes you the most suitable candidate for the job you are applying for or the company you want to work for. Don’ t try and hide or ignore these gaps when applying for jobs. Instead, embrace them and showcase all the skills you’ve developed and how they are relevant to the job you are applying for.
Let’s discuss some of the more obvious ones.
Study: Did you study while you were out of paid employment? If so, state this clearly on your resume. Whether or not you have completed the qualification you have still learnt or polished a number of key skills such as working independently, meeting deadlines, working in groups. You can also demonstrate that you are committed and motivated and looking to improve your skills among other things.
Volunteering: Have you volunteered while out of paid employment? If so, make the most of this on your resume. I think volunteering is one of the best ways to showcase your skills outside of paid employment. You may not have been paid for your efforts but you will have certainly developed and demonstrated skills so make sure these are listed on your resume. In addition, you are showing that your efforts haven’t just been for financial reward. Many companies have community engagement programs as part of their corporate policy and will appreciate that you can already demonstrate your commitment to making a difference in your community.
Living overseas: Living overseas develops a number of sought-after key transferable skills such as cultural awareness, independence, the ability to speak another language and other communication skills, adaptability etc. as well as skills like experience conducting communication via Skype and living and working with diverse groups. For global companies in particular, having an employee who has lived overseas can be a big asset, particularly if the employee has lived in a country in which the company has or is seeking to have a presence. Regardless you will have developed skills that make you an asset in today’s workforce.
Parenting: as a parent you know you’ve developed a number of new skills and many of these will be transferable to the workplace such as organizing, budgeting, coordinating, time management, and multi tasking. The key is to present these in a way that are relevant to the position you are applying for. For example, if you were your playgroup coordinator the role itself may not be directly relevant to the job you are applying for but think about what that role entailed. Did you manage a social media site, publish a newsletter, communicate via email, book meeting rooms, manage funds, provide support to others, delegate tasks, purchase supplies and regularly commit to showing up week after week?
You can see from these that the key here is to think about what you actually did during your breaks in paid employment and how these are relevant to what you want to do now. Then it is just a matter of presenting this in a way that showcases your relevant skills to your potential employer. Preparing your resume requires a post on its own but remember to use plenty of keywords relevant to the job you are applying for, ensure that you are highlighting the skills and experience which are most relevant to the position, and quantify your achievements as much as possible to demonstrate achievement. On this last point The Muse has a great article on how to quantify your resume bullet points. Click here to read.
I’d love you to add to the discussion so please comment or leave a question below.