career change

How To Fill A Gap In Your Resume

iStockphoto.com |  JJPan

iStockphoto.com | JJPan

 

Whether it's due to corporate layoffs, family leave, or whatever reason, you may find yourself between jobs. It’s not unusual. But this does provide job seekers with a noticeable gap in employment.

In employers’ terms, that time is unaccounted for. If you send your resume to an employer without providing any context, the recruiter or hiring manager is left to his or her own imagination to deduce how you’re spending your working hours. For all they know, you're sitting on the couch eating bonbons and watching Gilligan's Island reruns.

The point here is not to advise you how to hide such gaps on your resume. Rather, how do you really use that time effectively so that you don't have a hole?

  • Devote a portion of every day to the job hunt. Block out time on your calendar when you will check job listings, apply to jobs, send out resumes, reach out to your LinkedIn network, attend professional events, and so forth. Routine will reinforce in your mind that searching for a job is a job in itself. Consider dressing in business attire to help establish the proper mindset.
     
  • Keep busy with temporary or part-time work. I used to work in recruitment, and I once left a  position without another job in hand (the position and I were a poor fit for each other). Through my network, I came across a part-time opportunity with a staffing firm. We were able to negotiate a flexible work schedule which allowed me to interview for full-time jobs on an as-needed basis. At the same time, I kept my skills sharp. And after the ego hit of being unemployed, I was able to rebuild my confidence and demonstrate to potential employers that my skills and I were valued and still in demand.
     
  • Volunteer. Do you have a favorite cause? Skills you can share? Consider volunteering with a charitable cause close to your heart. In the nonprofit world dollars are tight, and giving freely of your time a few hours a week can ease a substantial burden. In addition to generating some positive karma in your account, you can pick and choose type of work you wish to do and how contribute your talents. Are you an accountant and your church needs help installing QuickBooks? Perhaps the local food pantry need help boxing meals. Or maybe can you provide assistance in another area of  expertise?

Maybe the hole in your resume is in your past; try to think back of how you spent that time. If you used it working in an unrelated field or volunteering, account for that time on your resume as well.

Oh - in case you were wondering, full-time parenting counts as work. Take your credit where it's due.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.

6 Important Questions To Ask Before Quitting Your Nightmare Job

That's the third laptop this week... | iStockphoto.com ( RomoloTavani)

That's the third laptop this week... | iStockphoto.com (RomoloTavani)

 

We spend more than a third of our lives at work. What do you do if that portion of your life feels like a living hell?

Here are some nightmare scenarios you may be encountering:

Toxic Work Environment. The company sold you a bill of goods on the interview. Morale is bad, your coworkers are worse, and expectations are shifting and unrealistic. A 40-hour workweek is a pipe dream compared to the 70+ hours you’re currently logging.

Your skills no longer meet the company’s needs. Sometimes a major internal shift occurs that makes you vulnerable. For example, maybe you’re an IT manager who’s been working on 20-year-old technology that’s being sunsetted at the end of the year, and there’s no plans or budget to train you up on the new platform. This kind of thing can also happen with soft skills, too – maybe the CEO is rolling out a new service model and it’s clear you’re having difficulty adapting.

Your boss has it in for you. Perhaps you and your manager have different philosophies. Maybe he wants to replace you with somebody he worked with at his last company. Or, maybe, he’s just evil. Either way, you have a bulls-eye on your back, and when things go south you will be blamed.

You’ve burned out. Sometimes it feels like you have nothing left to offer – no passion, no interest, no energy, and no motivation.

Or, maybe, your situation is a combination of all the above. In any event, you have a knot in your stomach just thinking about work, and you’re popping Rolaids like candy in order to battle back chronic acid reflux.

A thought crosses your mind: “This job is horrible, I should just quit. I can find another job.”

Acting on this is another matter. We depend on our job in order to eat and to put a roof over our head. Here are six important questions to ask yourself before deciding to quit your nightmare job.

  1. Is the situation temporary? Let’s say your manager is the primary source of your aggravation ­– is he filling in as the boss while the company has a vacancy, or is he settled into the role for the long term? If he’s an equity partner, then he’s clearly not going to move on anytime soon.
     
  2. Can you fix the situation? It’s not always possible for the boss to know everything that’s going on in the organization. If a process is broken, sometimes your manager has the power to remedy it, and by telling her she can address it. If the issue is skills related, perhaps you can take a class on your own time. And if you’re having a major personality clash with a coworker that’s causing your pain, sometimes a direct conversation can resolve it. But, sometimes not.
     
  3. Can you afford a break in employment? True, you’ll have time available to interview for jobs, but finding a new job takes time, and you won’t be collecting a paycheck while you’re on the hunt. Incidentally, if you quit you won’t qualify for unemployment pay.
     
  4. Will my employer pay me to leave? Many senior executives negotiate a severance package prior to accepting a job – if you’re lucky enough to fall into this category, you’ll have an idea of what your financial safety net will look like. But even if you’re not a member of the executive suite, there may still be the potential of a severance package. Some companies are image conscious, and may be willing to discuss some sort of severance in order to maintain their image and provide you with a soft landing – but don’t count on this, as it’s usually the exception, rather than the rule. Severance packages tend to be offered when it’s the company’s decision to part ways, not yours.
     
  5. Will my reputation take a hit? As a general rule, candidates who are currently employed tend to be more desirable, whereas candidates who are unemployed tend to generate questions and doubts by potential employers. Trust me, they’ll dig at this during the interview to see if they can uncover your flaws that contributed to your unemployment – fairly or unfairly. Also, you will damage your position during salary negotiations; instead of negotiating a package from a position of strength where the company needs to put together an attractive compensation package to entice you to leave your current opportunity, you’re in the less desirable position of negotiating with minimal leverage.
     
  6. Are my skills in demand? Take a serious look at your job market. If your skills are in high demand, employers may be more ready and willing to take a chance on you. If the market for your line of work is flooded with unemployed professionals, prepare for a slow, painful ride.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.

Should I Tell An Employer I Have Another Job Offer?

To tell, or not to tell. That is the question. / iStockphoto.com (Siphotography)

To tell, or not to tell. That is the question. / iStockphoto.com (Siphotography)

Wouldn't it be nice if the interview process adhered to a universal timeline that all employers followed? It would certainly simplify things if you could go to interviews with all potential employers during the first week, receive your offers the following week, then weigh all your offers and share your decision the week after that.

Sadly, it doesn't work that way. Job hunting is an imperfect process, and offers tend to trickle in at different times. And employers don't necessarily want to wait for an answer while you're trying to get another company to present their offer.

So, what do you do if you're in the awkward position that you have an offer in hand from one employer (let's call it Company A), but the company you really want to work for (Company B) hasn't made their decision yet? How can you possibly make a major career decision without all the facts?

In other words, is it okay to try to hurry the process along by telling Company B you have another offer on the table?

Ask yourself the following question: If Company B – the company you really want to work for – presents you an offer, do you intend to take it?

I know, I know - there are several unanswered questions in terms of salary and other factors. But if Company B is where you'd really like to work, then it may be in your best interest to tell Company B.

It's all in the approach. Such a scenario can be a great opportunity for you to reinforce your interest in the company, portray you as an in-demand professional. A well placed, well handled call may in fact hurry the process along. Your call to Company B's recruiter or hiring manager should go something like this:

"I just wanted to call because I'm in a bit of a difficult situation. I have received an offer from another company and I owe them an answer by this Friday. However, your company is and has been my first choice, and I wanted to follow up to reiterate my interest."

Then listen, reiterate your interest, and thank them for their understanding.

You're doing Company B a favor - if you're truly their preferred candidate, they will move heaven and earth to try to provide you with a job offer. If you're not their first choice, they can do you a favor by telling you where you stand, and freeing you up to accept the offer from Company A without hesitation. Often a call like this from a candidate serves as the impetus to stop the endless interview process and move forward. Chances are they'll respect you for making this call.

What if you're annoyed that the employer is taking too long to make a decision? Is it okay to lie and tell them that you have another offer in hand - even if you don't - in order to move the process along?

It's important to realize that telling a company you have an outstanding offer from another employer is not without risk. I’ve seen the “I have another offer” strategy blow up in candidates’ faces.

Here’s why. Hiring managers don’t like to be rushed - they like to feel that they are in control of making a well-thought out decision. Sometimes this deliberation, while candidate-unfriendly, adds to the overall time of the interview process.

Bear in mind, hiring managers don’t make a decision in a vacuum. They interview several candidates looking for the right fit, and proceed from there.

I once had a hiring manager tell me, “If it’s not ‘yes,’ it’s ‘no.’” What this means is that if they’re not completely sold on the candidate, then they feel no need to make a hiring decision. The bar is high for the candidate to impress the hiring manager.

Lousy? Yes.

Reality? Also, yes.

By putting a fire under the hiring manager, you’re forcing their hand, possibly before they are ready to make a decision. And by visibly trying to take control of the situation, you may be putting the manager in the uncomfortable position of having to make a selection – in your favor – without having all the information they require or want.

If you’re truly the solution to the hiring manager’s problems, and you both agree that you are the solution the hiring manager’s problems, then you’ll probably push things forward in your favor, more quickly.

On the other hand, if you’re one of several candidates where there’s not yet a clear winner, then you may be blowing yourself out of the water. The manager may decide that your timeline and his/her timeline don’t correspond, so they’ll just cut you loose. If it’s not “yes,” it’s “no.”

I’m not saying that the hiring manager is right to proceed in this way. But you need to be prepared to deal with the psychological impact of your actions, and the results.

One more thing. If you do tell an employer you have another offer, and they accommodate you by rushing you an offer, it would be fatal for you to respond by asking for more time to weigh your options. They'll feel used, and will likely remove you from any further consideration.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.