Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What to do with breaks in your job history

I know I said my next post would be about cover letters and resume formatting, this however has arisen several times in the past few weeks and I didn't want to miss the opportunity to comment.

By breaks in your job history I mean of course those periods of time when you were not working, or were not working in a Student Affairs position (but were a barista, a server, a Target Cashier for example). Get it off your resume, but explain it in one or two lines of your cover letter. Unless you are going to try and claim that your time serving pancakes has helped you develop into a better supervisor, advisor, administrator or teacher, and trust me that would be a serious stretch, I don't need to see it on your resume. We all know that times are tough in the job market and that there are fewer and fewer positions to move up to after your first entry level job. We get it that life happens and you fall in love, fall out of love, deal with ill and ailing parents and so on. You are human, we are human- employers get it- so just tell us. Explain it succinctly in a line in your cover letter, and get your part-time gig off your resume.

Poorly done- folks who feel the need to take five bullets on their resume to explain in detail their responsibilities as a barista. Yes, seriously- five bullets to tell me you made a lot of drinks (I believe they said something about being able to multitask in a fast paced environment while retaining large amounts of ever changing information- translation- made lots of coffee drinks). Creative, sure, necessary- nope. If for some reason you don't heed my advice and absolutely must put these jobs on your resume please keep it simple, don't pad it to make it look like more than it was, and have someone review it before you submit. You make yourself look foolish, and make me wonder if you think I'm a fool- so keep it simple and if you can, cut it all together.

Examples I have seen recently that are well written:

"As you can see from my resume I have taken some time off from student affairs work (between XXX and XXX years)in order to care for an elderly parent who recently passed away."

"Upon finishing graduate school, while I continued my job search, I worked several part time positions near my home, none of which were in Student Affairs."

"After leaving the field in 2007 to pursue an interest in business, I realized my true fulfillment is working with college aged students and thus am returning to the profession at this time." (Note- when asked, this person's "business interest" was working at Target, but they sure framed it nicely didn't they!)

Next up- I promise we'll talk about cover letters and resumes. Until then- happy searching!

The Employer

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