New year, new you.
Maybe you’ve been staying at home taking care of the kids for the past decade. Perhaps you dropped out of the workforce to care for your ailing parents. Whatever the reason, you’ve been out of the workforce for an extended amount of time, and now you’re ready to jump back in.
But how do you fill that gap on your resume? Although the details will differ depending on the industry you’re trying to rejoin, there are a few things to always keep in mind.
1. Acknowledge the Gap
Companies want to hear you tell them why you’re right for the position. They don’t want to hear your reasons for being out of the workforce—as far as the job search is concerned, those are irrelevant excuses. The first step to getting back into the workforce is accepting that you were out of it, and employers are going to notice that. Don’t try to beat around the bush or fill the gap with fluff.
Having a blank space on your resume is not a negative. It’s an opportunity to do something more.
2. Revamp Your Accomplishments
Turn your excuses into accomplishments. Show off who you are as an individual. Why did you get out of the workforce in the first place? What goal were you trying to accomplish? You have achieved that goal, so don’t be afraid to mention it. Tell prospective employers that you have realized that dream (whether it be raising your children, caring for your parents or other relatives, or traveling the world), and now you’re ready to bring all that passion to a new challenge.
What else were you doing while you were out of the workforce? If you volunteered in any capacity, include it. Even volunteering at your child’s school is something worth noting. If you were in the PTA, put that down, too. Any side projects you worked on are fair game as well.
3. Have a Plan
How do you want to portray yourself to employers? Once you’ve decided, use your resume to accomplish it. If you want a job in childcare, use your experience with your own children to show you can do the job. Taking care of your kids is a job after all.
Think of your gap as a job. What did you do? How many years did you do it for? What were your responsibilities? Apply that methodology to all your accomplishments and your resume will start to take shape.
Set a timeframe for finding a job and plan the milestones required to get there. What skills does your desired job require? What do you need to do to develop those skills? How long will that take? You need to treat your job search like a job. That means setting goals and following through on those goals.
4. Be Willing to Learn
Passion and drive alone aren’t going to get you the job. It’s a competitive job market, so you’ll need to play catch up. Enroll in online classes or check out your nearest CareerTech. You can even enroll in a community college if you have the time. Regardless of method, you need to do something to increase your skillset, and show that you’ve already been doing what it takes to succeed.
A great way to build experience and learn at the same time is volunteering at your local library. Volunteering gives you something to put on your resume, while the numerous books, programs, and meetings available at the library provide opportunities to learn.
5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Above all else, don’t try to equate your accomplishments to those of others. Everyone’s path is different. Just because your friend Sally could be a company vice president and mother of two doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. Your cousin Tom starting a million-dollar tech startup has nothing to do with your own life.
A prolonged job search can be frustrating, especially after a gap. You’ll be tempted to compare yourself to everyone else and where they are on their career path. Don’t! You don’t know their story, and, to be frank, their story has little to do with yours. Focus on yourself and your own goals. What do you want? What makes you happy?