How many times have you applied for a job that perfectly matched the skills and experience on your resume, but didn’t get it? Resumes can be a real inconvenience to create even when your background is perfectly aligned with the position. So, what do you do when you have gaps in employment? Or you’ve changed jobs more than hairstyles? Rethink what you include in your resume, how you include it and how you market it.
The long and the short of it? Everyone changes jobs; almost everyone changes careers, and the younger you are, the more often you do both.
We all know this, but that doesn’t stop hiring managers from judging applicants on their lengths of employment. So, what do you do? Use your cover letter, objective, and even a half line next to each of the job titles explaining it if necessary.
Then make sure you market consistently. In other words, tell your network. Give phrasing to your references, and explain in the interview the exact same story. If you left for another job, the easiest explanation is that it was an offer you could not refuse.
But what if you left that second job quickly because the boss was a jerk? Then it might be something like: It was not all it appeared to be. In all cases, keep it neutral to positive and tie it back to why you are looking for a new job now. For example: ‘I’ve had enough jobs to know I thrive in a team environment, where we are working together to further the greater goal. That’s the kind of place I can get lost in my work and really help the company succeed.’ If your objective explains that, your cover letter underscores it and your online presence and network say the same thing, it reduces how risky you look to the hiring manager.
Be honest – Why have you been out of work? Raising kids is different than being laid off three times. Know your real story, then compare it to the clichés about your industry.
Do you work in biotech? No one will be shocked with frequent job changes because company sales, closures and moves are common and often publicized. Conversely, if you’re in government and lost your job after 20 years, there may be some negative generalizations about why you got laid off. Compare that with what you are doing in your free time. Are you spending more time with family? Did you travel? Volunteer? Take a minute to figure out the positive side of the change, even though it may be hard to see. For example: ‘Summary: Senior Accounting Manager, revitalized after much needed time off with family, ready to return to the workforce to apply the skills I honed over 20 years in the finance and accounting department in Sun City.’
In your marketing, you can add more detail. To your references, you can sound grateful for the time off to spend with family and get re-energized about the field you have always loved. On your LinkedIn profile, you can take more space to summarize what you have been doing to regain the passion you once had for your career. Instead of presenting a government worker who was laid off, you are showing yourself as a hard worker who got burned out, took the time to refocus and is ready to get back in the game. For both frequent job changes and employment gaps, the best thing to do is to be honest with yourself and drill down to the real reason things did not work out. Then address those items head on and with a positive spin. Create your own story or the hiring manager will do it for you.