By Roberta Chinsky Matuson
So, you spent this past year traveling around the globe. Or perhaps you were working as a volunteer for a local non-profit organization. You are one of the many people who now have a gap in your work history. Or do you?
People ask me all the time how to cover up the gaps in their resume. My response is always the same; be honest. Chances are that you have gained valuable experience from you time off the beaten trail. Most forward thinking employers will recognize this and will be anxious to have you on their team.
A great place to explain the gaps in your resume is in your cover letter. If you have gained life skills during your time off, you should briefly explain how this experience would make you a better employee.
For example, if you are looking for a position in Human Resources, and you have just returned from a six-month trip around the world, you might consider telling your potential employer that this experience has given you a clearer understanding of people who come from different cultural backgrounds. This would certainly be considered a plus when applying to companies who have a multicultural workforce.
As excited as you are about the birth of your new child or the three months you just spent building a church in South America, don’t assume that everyone else wants to hear all about it. After all, the person who is interviewing you has probably been working 50-60 hour workweeks, while you were off pursing your life dreams.
If you are asked specific questions regarding your recent experience, then respond. But don’t go rambling on and on. Also, don’t assume that the interviewer will be able to figure out how your new skills might transfer to the workplace. You should spell this out.
For example, if you have just returned from taking several years off to be at home with your children, then share with the interviewer the volunteer work that you did with your children’s school. Emphasize how you were the lead person on several committees and how you had to coordinate the work of others. Don’t forget to mention how keeping everything in balance, required being extremely well organized.
Don’t Sweat It
Companies are looking for people who are not afraid to take risks. The days of working for one company for 20 years are long gone. You know you did the right thing by following your dreams. You also took a risk that a lot of people would not take. So, go out there and be confident, for you are truly one of the people who can honestly say that they saw an opportunity and they went for it.
You’d be surprised how many companies won’t even notice your gap. A number of years ago, I took a year off to travel the world. By the time I returned to the workforce, I had been out of the job market for 18 months. During my job search, I had a number of interviews and several offers. I kept wondering when someone was going to ask where I had been for the past 18 months. Not one person did. Too bad, I really wanted to tell them where I had been and how it changed my whole outlook on life and people in general. Perhaps I will get lucky and someone will ask the next time I do a job search.
© 2008 Human Resource Solutions. All rights reserved.