Often, when someone takes time off from work to be with a family member or recover from an illness, it becomes difficult for them to re-enter the workforce. From Recruiter.com, “That being said, navigating the ever-changing job market is no easy task, and it can be especially difficult when there’s a long pause on your resume. However, knowing what sort of challenges you might face will help prepare you for success.” There are ways to get around this and make yourself more employable by explaining your experience and achievements in a way that helps potential employers see your value.
Make sure it’s relevant
When you reenter the workforce, it’s important to make sure your resume is relevant. If you’ve been out of the job market for a while and have gained new skills, make sure they’re relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Additionally, it’s important that these skills are transferable; if a potential employer were to call up someone who had worked with you in your previous life as an ice-cream scooper or burrito roller (no judgment), would they think highly of your work ethic? Or would they wonder why on earth someone like that was applying at their company? For example: I once worked in retail management during my time off from school and learned how to manage large groups of people while being responsible for inventory control and sales performance tracking. If I were applying for a job at an advertising agency right now, this experience isn’t transferable because those aren’t things that need managing—but if I were looking at gigs in marketing or sales management positions only (and not store administration), then it’d be very appropriate.
Finally, don’t exaggerate anything! It’s tempting because we want our resumes/cover letters read by anyone who will take them seriously but don’t do it! Being honest about yourself will lead employers into seeing what kind of person you really are before making any offers so there’s no need go through all sorts of lies just so something can come across on paper better than it should be
Briefly explain your time off
You can briefly explain your time off, but only tell the facts. If you’re not sure what to say, here are some suggestions:
- I was out of work for a few months due to illness.
- I was out of work for a few months while my husband served overseas in the military.
- My wife and I had our first child during that time period, so I stayed home with her during her first year. (This might be relevant if you are applying for a job that requires you to travel.)
Demonstrate skills and achievements gained during that time
If you take time off from work, it is important to demonstrate the skills and achievements that you gained during that time. You want to show that you are still valuable to a company and have gained new skills while off. The best way to do this is by using examples of how you have used your new skills in your resume or cover letter. If you did not gain any new skills, then try incorporating them into previous experiences as much as possible, especially if they apply directly to the job for which you are applying.
Emphasize transferable skills
Once you’ve listed all of your relevant work experience, it’s time to talk about transferable skills. Transferable skills are those that can be learned from a variety of experiences and educational settings, such as the workplace or volunteering. Generally speaking, these are soft skills like communication (writing clearly and concisely), organization (prioritizing tasks) and problem solving (solving issues efficiently).
Transferable skills can also be acquired through internships or other kinds of experiences outside the classroom; for example, if you hold an internship at a company where people are constantly in meetings or have to schedule one another’s appointments, then you’ll learn valuable organizational techniques that will be applicable in any workplace environment.
Discuss it openly but briefly in the cover letter
The first step to addressing the gap in your employment history is to make sure that it’s relevant. If the job you’re applying for doesn’t require experience in the specific field you were working in before, don’t mention it at all. However, if there are transferable skills from your previous industry (for example, sales and marketing), then be sure to mention these on your resume as well as highlighting them during an interview.
Once you’ve determined how you want to address this issue in a way that makes sense for potential employers, focus on demonstrating skills and achievements gained during that time. For example: “During my break from full-time work, I volunteered at my local library where I gained valuable skills such as customer service and event planning which have helped me grow professionally while working with a diverse group of people.”
In addition to discussing this openly but briefly in the cover letter, be sure not overdo it by including too much information about what happened during those years (e.g., “I was diagnosed with cancer”). Instead describe how things such as having children or caring for sick relatives can relate back somehow (“I was able to balance multiple responsibilities thanks largely due…”).
A short, honest explanation is usually all you need
The first thing you should do is focus on the skills, achievements and experience that make you a valuable candidate. You can also include any relevant volunteer work or other activities during your time off. If this isn’t a resume for an entry-level position or internship, then you don’t need to provide a detailed explanation of what you did outside of work every day.
Next, note how much time off was taken. The amount of time doesn’t matter as much as how it’s framed: “I took six months off.” Or “I took six months off to spend more time with my children.” Or “I took six months off following my father’s death.” All three statements will paint different pictures in the reader’s mind about whether taking extended leave from work is acceptable in their organization; each sentence is equally true but implies slightly different things about your commitment to your career and company.
We hope this article has helped you understand how to reenter the workforce after a long period of time off. Remember that it’s important to be upfront and honest about your time away from work, and emphasize transferable skills in your resume or cover letter. You don’t need to go into too much detail about what you did during that time, but if you’re asked then definitely answer with confidence.
If you are feeling stuck in your career or job search, contact us today for a customized approach to your needs.