How to Clean Up Your Resume After a Work Break

How to Clean Up Your Resume After a Work Break
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Updated on 14 July 2015

Honesty is the best policy. This old adage proves true in many situations. According to Monster.com, truthful job seekers project confidence and a sense of integrity, qualities that employers highly value. However, have you ever met someone who is too candid? TMI is an acronym for too much information. For certain, you do not want potential employers to be reminded of these three letters when they read your resume. So, how do you present work breaks in a positive way without oversharing unnecessary details? Examine the following three possible TMI reasons for work gaps. After identifying why the reasons are TMI, consider less blunt delivery methods for each one.

The TMI reason: My children were turning into brats so I had to do an intervention.

Parenthood is one of the most common reasons for employees to voluntarily leave the workforce. Some parents return to work after a short period of time, but others do not work again until their children are adults. List the dates you cared for your children on your resume. Use a dignified title, such as full-time parent, to communicate how you spent your time. If you take care of an elderly parent or another family member, you may choose to describe your role as caregiver or estate manager.

It is common for job seekers to describe the duties of each job that they list on a resume. Describe your responsibilities as a homemaker in the same way. Did you raise funds or organize committees at your child’s school? Did you attend classes or manage household finances? Recruiters will get a sense of your complete skill set if you share your talents and accomplishments.

The TMI reason: My boss was a super jerk. No one likes him. I am not the only one who quit!

Loyalty is important to employers. Recruiting, training, and managing employees requires time and money. If they suspect that you leave at the first sight of a problem, they may conclude that you do not merit the investment. How can you demonstrate that you are worthy of trust? Do you have a history of holding job positions for several years? In that case, there is little reason to worry that you will seem flighty. Let your work history speak for itself. There is no need to volunteer any negative opinions about your former employer. If you are asked directly on a job application or in an interview, briefly explain that you wanted to explore other career options or are seeking new challenges.

You can also minimize the perceived work gap by eliminating specific dates from your resume. For example, imagine that you worked at Company X from December 1, 2013, to January 1, 2014. Then, you quit because of your annoying manager. You did not find another job until December 2014. On your resume, use only the years 2013-2014 to indicate the time you worked at Company X. When you list your next job as 2014-present, there is no obvious work gap. You can also fill gaps with volunteer work, education, or personal travel. If asked, refer to these noble pursuits rather than the toxic personality of your superior as the reason you took time off work.

The TMI reason: I was caught stealing paper clips. I can’t resist those shiny little beauties.

You got fired. Don’t worry. It is not the end of the world. How you should handle this issue depends on why you got fired.

For the sake argument, let’s say you were fired because a health issue affected your performance at work. In this example, you stole the paper clips because you suffer from kleptomania. After your dismissal, you sought treatment. You are now managing your health issue well. You might include a note on your resume that there was a health issue which is now resolved or which will not affect the job for which you are applying.

If the theft of the paperclips was only a huge lapse in judgment, it might be more difficult to explain it on a resume. Remember, you do not need to include every single place you worked on your resume. You might limit the work history to relevant experience or your most recent occupations. If you do decide to mention the terminated position on the resume, prepare before the interview how to explain it. You will want to talk about how you have corrected the problems that resulted in your dismissal. Under the references section, provide contact information of colleagues who will speak positively about you. Written recommendations from clients or co-workers are especially useful.

Honesty is certainly a virtue, but you can have too much of a good thing. If you have gaps in your work experience, do not despair. By crafting your resume thoughtfully, you can present your work breaks in the best possible light. Share what skills you gained, what responsibilities you fulfilled, and what experiences broadened your horizons during the time that you were not employed. Be selective about what information you volunteer, and what references you choose to include on your resume. Whatever you do, avoid sabotaging your resume with TMI!

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