Addressing Gaps in Your Resume

February 15th, 2019

If you’re like almost every other job seeker with a few years of life experience, you’ve probably been through one or two chapters in which you were either unemployed for a while or employed in a position with a title that doesn’t reflect your career goals. During the years since your graduation from high school or college, you’ve held one or more working roles, and in between those roles, you may have spent time searching for work, caring for family, recovering from an illness, traveling, attending classes, holding a short-term position to pay the bills, or anything else that filled your days but won’t work well as an entry on your resume.

Some employers perceive these “gaps” as idle chapters that require an explanation. And even those who understand that a gap isn’t a crime may still be curious. How did you spend that time? The answer can help employers and recruiters learn a little bit more about you. Here are a few tips that let you explain just enough of your life story without sharing too much.

First, understand the goal.

A six-month period between one job and the next won’t put you in the hot seat or signal a character weakness (at least not for a responsible employer). But it might suggest that 1) you were looking for work and being turned away; or 2) you weren’t looking for work, despite your evident free time. Both can indicate you aren’t as ambitious or growth-focused as your application suggests. You’ll want to allay this concern and convince your employers that, in fact, you ARE focused on the long-term growth of your career, gap or no gap.

Don’t overshare.

Never reveal your marital or family status to an employer until you’re onboard. If you took time off for your children, parents or an ill partner, keep that to yourself. Your family status is protected information, something your employers don’t need to know. (In fact, it’s illegal to ask).

Emphasize the positive.

Were you volunteering during this time? Describe your experience. Were you on a sabbatical or studying? Share! These are positive data points that can help you shine, even if they aren’t the primary reason you weren’t working during the period in question.

Move on quickly.

If an employer points to a six-month, two-year or ten-year chapter your resume doesn’t account for, have a short answer prepared, deliver it, and then move past the subject quickly. End your (very short) story by providing reassurance you haven’t missed a beat and your skills have not become rusty.

For more on how to frame your life story in a way that aligns with the needs of your potential employer, talk to the job search and interview experts at PSU.

How to Stay Motivated During Your Job Search

January 18th, 2019

The winter blahs can take a toll on any form of motivation. No matter what we hope to do—stay in shape, try new things, make new friends—it’s not easy to begin the process during the peak of the January doldrums. But there are few challenges harder to face in the winter then searching for a new job. So how can you get up and get out there when you’d really rather cuddle up with some cocoa and watch the snow fall? Here are few tips.

Stay focused on your goal.

Remember that landing your new job will be the kindest gift you can give yourself. If it’s what you want and need more than anything, then consider a new job the greatest form of self-care that you can offer yourself. Cocoa is nice, and cuddling up is nice, but real financial security and career growth are even nicer. Stay hydrated, get adequate sleep, and most important of all, stay focused on your most valuable goal.

Draw strength from your family and friends.

Too often, especially during the bleak winter, we tend to hide our weaknesses and problems from others. We hole up and protect ourselves by not letting anyone know what we’re going through. Do this if it makes you feel safe, but remember that your friends are part of a vast professional network and they may be able to help you in ways you don’t realize. Their help can take the form of both emotional and practical support, so know that both are available to you—if you’re willing to reach out.

Make lists and stay organized.

It’s easier to wake up, pick up your list, and start checking off items than it is to wake up to a completely blank slate. Each night, give yourself a gift for the next morning: a sense of direction and purpose. Create a list and make sure the first item is an easy one to cross off. As soon as you pour your first cup of coffee the next morning, you’ll already be on your way.

Talk to someone who can help you.

Find someone you know with specific experience in your specific field, someone who can speak to you directly about the challenges you face. You can think of this person as a long-term mentor or just a one-time conversationalist over a cup of coffee, but put yourself in their presence for a minute so you can remember where you’re going and why.

Create small goals that lead to bigger ones.

Have a few goals and to-do items on your list that you can check off in an hour. Include a few more that may take you a day. Have at least one goal that you can accomplish in a week. And a month. And so on. Break the bigger goals down into smaller tasks and maintain a sense of forward momentum.

For more on how to keep moving toward your new job, no matter what distractions and challenges lie in your way, talk to the job search team at PSU.

 

Preparedness: A Candidate’s Secret Weapon on the Job Hunt

July 8th, 2016

You’ve shoehorned hours of job search time into your already busy day. And you’ve been fielding calls with recruiters and network contacts all day long. Now it’s time to check out and leave the job search alone for another day—maybe a couple of days—while you redirect your focus to other responsibilities. Nothing can go off the rails while your attention is diverted for a little while, right?

Wrong. Once you start your job search, you flip a switch that stays on all day, every day, until you land your next position. Even when you’re asleep, your online profiles are still visible, and your voicemail message, email address, and public persona are still awake and active. The job search process is an adventure, and as with any adventure, from the moment you sign on, anything can happen at any time. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re ready.

Keep your messages tight.

You can’t control when potential leads, employers, recruiters and network contacts will reach out to you. So record a professional, friendly voice message that tells callers who you are and what you’re about, no matter why they’re calling. While you’re at it, adjust your phone habits. Instead of ignoring numbers you don’t recognize, train yourself to answer. And never answer the phone with a rude, sleepy, inarticulate single syllable. Practice these words: “Hello, (insert your name) speaking.”

Check your email.

Make sure your email address looks professional and serious, and if it doesn’t, get a new one. Check your messages at least two or three times per day during your search, and review your spam folder as well. If you check your spam folder very rarely—or not at all—don’t be surprised to discover that your dream employer tried to contact you six months ago.

Keep your schedule flexible.

Prioritize your job search, even if it means putting some other aspects of your busy life on a temporary hold. If an employer can only meet with you during a time slot in which you’ve scheduled a dental cleaning, a date with your spouse, or a casual get together with friends, don’t hem and haw. Just reschedule your date. Your spouse, friends and dentist will still be there later. Your potential employer probably won’t.

Keep your resume updated and on hand.

Once you’ve edited and polished your resume, be ready to send it off at a moment’s notice. This may mean buying an app that can help you send documents on the go, or it may mean creating business cards that direct readers to the blog or website where your resume is posted and available.
For more on how to keep your job search active, even when you’re not, reach out to the Charlotte career management team at PSU.

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These Four Obstacles can Stall Your Job Search

November 27th, 2015

After months (or years) of thinking it over and gathering your courage, you’re finally ready to take action. You’re ready to start looking for a new job. It’s time to get this ball rolling, and this time, you’re serious. You finally have the momentum you need to create your resume and break free from your current dead end position or impossible boss.

First: Congratulations! Every journey begins with a single step, and the hardest part of any difficult task is making the decision to get started. Second: If you plan to reach your goal, you’ll need to keep moving, even when the going gets rough. Watch out for these potential obstacles that can stall your search and bring you back to square one.

A Counteroffer

Your new employer makes an offer, you give notice your old employer, and before you can blink, your old employer raises your salary then and there. Your new paycheck will be a few dollars more than it was in the past. But if you accept, you’ll be right back at your desk again next week, facing the same bleak prospects, the same frustrating boss, and the same miserable commute. Remember: your goal is to make a change and get out of here. Stay focused. Maybe if you tell your new employer about the counter offer, they’ll change their original number.

Rejection

A rejection can be discouraging, especially after you pour your heart into your application and stay up all night preparing for your interview. And if you think one rejection is hard, you may feel pretty beaten down by the time you’ve racked up 20 of them. But don’t be deterred. If you stop searching because rejections hurt so much, you’ll just stop searching. Nothing else in the world will change. Don’t let a few disappointments or a bruised ego prevent you from moving forward. Shake them off and keep going.

False Promises

Again, if your employer finds out that you’re searching, he or she may sit down with you to determine why you aren’t happy and what can be done to keep you in your chair. But if you’re determined to go, go. Even if your employer promises to improve his behavior, adjust your workload, or support you during conflicts, don’t count on a permanent change.

Distractions

Don’t get pulled off course by big developments at your current job, like an important new project or a client with an urgent issue. Give some attention to the matter at hand, but don’t abandon your job search. If you don’t have time to look for work, make time—spend at least a few minutes or an hour on your search every day until you’re settled in your new position.

For more on how to stay focused and complete your job search without giving up or getting derailed, contact the career management team at PSU.

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What Makes You Stand Out as a Candidate?

June 12th, 2015

You’re about to start editing and customizing your resume in pursuit of an opportunity that seems perfect in every way. Perfect for you, at least. The position lies well within commuting distance, the company seems stable, and job seems to align perfectly with your long term career goals. You also hold all (or most) of the requirements that these employers seem to be looking for. This position offers everything you want and need…but what about the other side of that transaction? How can you make it clear to these employers that, as far as this dream job is concerned, you’re also dream candidate? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you work on setting yourself apart from the crowd.

The minimum isn’t always enough.

If the employers request a candidate with a specific level of education in a specific field, plus three, five, or ten years of experience, then having these things won’t help you across the finish line; you’ll just have an easier time getting into the race. Whatever the basic requirements may be for the position, almost every candidate in the pool will have them. So you’ll need to make it clear that you can check these boxes…but you can also offer a little bit more.

Overlapping credentials provide leverage.

Maybe these employers want a candidate with a degree in finance, but they also want a candidate with HTML experience. And it may not be a realistic expectation, but they also (as a bonus) would love to find a candidate who can speak the national language of the country where they’re about to open a new office. Most employers know that each of these individual skill sets are easy to find. But a candidate with two of the three will be far more rare. And a magical candidate with all three of these unrelated credentials will be like a beautiful, mythical unicorn. If you happen to be this unicorn (AND you happen to live within in commuting distance) now is your time to shine! Don’t miss this opportunity.

Downplay irrelevant skills.

If you have seven skills to include in your “skills” section, including software languages, public speaking skills, clinical certifications, athletic accomplishments, artistic accomplishments, and a few others, shine a light on the ones that will matter most to these specific employers. Do this by removing the others altogether. If you’re pretty sure one of your skills might be commonplace or irrelevant to this job, delete it so the others get more attention.

For more on how to make sure you’re grabbing and holding the attention of potential employers, reach out to the expert staffing team at Personnel Services Unlimited.

 

 

Three Indispensable Job Search Branding Tips

May 9th, 2014

“Personal branding” means using the basic techniques of business marketing to help potential employers keep your name in mind after they skim your resume and move on to the next one in the lineup. Just a few little moves can help you stand out and make your personal story a little more compelling and a little easier to remember later on. Like a catchy commercial jingle that runs through your head all day long, the right hook can grab and keep a manager’s attention.

Branding may not have much to do with your actual skills sets and qualifications for the job; it just involves a set of moves that tie your professional details together into a seamless and appealing whole. Start with these:

1. Harp on single, simple theme.

If you’re an engineer but you were a baker during an earlier chapter of your life, pitch yourself as “the engineer who used to be a baker”. Your dual skill sets and diverse experience are rare (no other candidate will share this unique story). And if you can explain how these two qualities overlap and inform each other, your message will be hard to ignore.

2. Choose a color.

Choose one color that can be subtly woven through your entire job search process, from the layout details on your resume to the tie or scarf you wear to the interview. Keep in mind some of the color associations that we share as a culture. For example, red: passion. Yellow: a sunny demeanor. Green: creativity. Blue: calm and emotional control. Purple: dignity. Orange: friendliness and extroversion.

3. Choose a tone.

Keep your tone professional but consistent throughout your resume, cover letter, and interview. And no matter which tone you choose, make sure it aligns with your chosen color. For example, if you’re a “green” creative candidate, keep that theme alive in each of your written and spoken communications as well as your visual presentation.

4. Keep your online information consistent.

When employers type your name into a search engine, the first few results will probably include your social media profiles, personal website, and blog. So use these platforms to tell a coherent story about who you are and what you can do.

Contact the staffing experts at PSU for more on how to send a strong branding message and find the right position for your skills and needs.

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