Weekly I encounter job seekers concerned about explaining employment gaps to prospective employers. Some of the most common reasons for employment gaps are laid off, taking time off to have a baby, caring for an elderly parent, a disability, or incarceration. There are some reasons that are looked upon more favorably than others but whatever the reason, don’t overlook this potential barrier to employment and address it wisely.
Consider a functional resume format that will highlight the skills you can bring to the company. This type of resume will focus on skills with a summary of qualifications at the top of the resume and list your experience by industry instead of chronologically. Include your work history at the end of the resume. By then the employer is impressed by your skills and is ready to call you for an interview. Where and when you acquired the skill is de-emphasized because it is further down the page.
Besides having the right resume structure, consider other activities that you can do that would shorten those gaps.
Filling in the Gaps
Some career counselor’s may advise you to volunteer during an unemployment period and I completely agree. When I was transitioning from South Texas to Houston, I did some volunteer work at non-profit agencies to gain experience, learn the city, and make new contacts. That led to my first job in Houston at a local non-profit. By volunteering you can learn new skills and/or use your skills to help others. This also makes it easier to explain to an employer what you have been doing with your “time off” and serves to shorten those gaps in employment. To find volunteer opportunities visit in your area visit the Volunteer Match website.
Also consider self-employment, I meet some individuals with disabilities that have been working at a parents’ business and others who have started a small business. In one case, I met an older lady that started cleaning homes and expanded her business enough to hire people. With the turn in the economy, she lost some clients but she can list this as experience. Self-employment can include cleaning houses, selling on eBay or at a local flea market, and consulting work. These are all positions and activities you can list and diminish those employment gaps.
If you have been out of the workforce due to incarceration, start thinking about what qualifications you have for the job you are seeking. What skills can you bring into the job? What experience did you gain prior and during the incarceration? Did you gain additional education? Listing all that on a piece of paper prior to starting you resume will help you fill in gaps of missing time from the workforce. List those things to make your resume appear positive to the prospective employer. Although some may look negatively toward someone who was incarcerated, they are also looking to see what you can do for them. So you need to address that with a positive approach on the resume.
Workforce Solutions offers free workshops on resume, interviewing, rebranding your skills by Certified Workforce Professionals at career offices, visit the Workforce Solutions website for additional information.
Claudia Magallan is the Disability Navigator for Workforce Solutions Workforce Solutions- Gulf Coast ensuring that customers with disabilities utilize all the services offered by Workforce Solutions. She has over six years of experience building relationships in the Houston Community and working with job seekers with barriers to employment.