If you’ve been away from the workforce for a little while (or a long while), and you’re now looking for way to step back into the game and pick up where you left off, you’re not alone. Here are a few resume and cover letter related questions from our readers who are facing similar challenges.
“My wife has been stationed in Japan for the past four years, and since our future has been uncertain during this time, I’ve been supporting her at home and I haven’t been looking for full-time work. Now we’re coming back to the United States and I need to step back into accounting. I still have my certification. But how can I make sure my resume emphasizes my skills, not my four years off the market?”
Don’t address the gap directly in your resume. Simply create a summary that focuses on your professional experience and your most valuable and relevant skill sets. Document your work history just as you would if you hadn’t experienced the gap. Format your resume professionally and present your dates of employment clearly.
But when you move onto your cover letter, you’ll need to offer a little more information. Keep your explanation simple and short, but also honest and complete. Put yourself in your potential employer’s position and determine exactly how this four-year gap might concern you, then address those concerns directly. Make it clear that while you’ve been away, you’ve kept on top of changes in the field.
Also emphasize that you’re technology-savvy, and that during your gap, you’ve stayed in contact with your professional network. Then move on.
“I’ve been away from the workforce for 10 years while my children were young. Now that they’re more independent, I’m ready to go back. Though I see many people around me who take a child-rearing break for a year or two, there are very few who have been on hold as long as I have. What should I do?”
Above all, you’ll need to accomplish two goals:
- You’ll need to let employers know that you still understand how your industry works.
- You’ll need to make it clear that you’ve been active during this time in ways that demonstrate relevant skills.
For example, leadership. Have you headed any community organizations or committees during this time? Have you held board positions with local groups or professional societies? Have you done any volunteering? Have you launched or supported any public campaigns? Have you been involved in fundraising efforts?
As for your industry knowledge, have you been keeping up (or contributing to) any industry-related publications or blogs? Have you joined any open source groups, attended any professional events, or gained experience with any relevant software platforms? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, this experience will need to hold a prominent position in both your resume and your cover letter. Your letter should move quickly over the gap—simply explain that you’ve been sidelined by family obligations and then move on. (Trust that any competent, experienced, intelligent employer won’t be confused by this.)
Your most difficult challenge won’t be explaining or apologizing for the gap, so don’t dwell on that. Instead, focus on allaying concerns about your skill sets, professional readiness, and cultural fit.
The First Hurdle Is a Strong Cover Letter
If you’re concerned that your long gap might raise red flags in the minds of your potential employers, your interview will provide the best possible opportunity to address these concerns. But to gain this opportunity, you’ll need an effective, attention-getting resume and cover letter. LiveCareer can help with this step. The site’s Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder can offer professional formatting guidelines and a great place to start.