Before I was married and had my three children, I had a successful career as a Project Manager with a large construction company for 10 years. It’s been about three years that I have been out of the industry and now I need to go back to work for financial reasons.
I started to apply for work in my field, but have not had any responses. I was recommended by countless friends to register and use social media, especially LinkedIn. My former colleagues and managers are no longer with the company; many have moved on to other jobs and other companies. I have lost track. I feel frustrated and confused regarding this gap in my employment history, as well as feeling isolated that I no longer have the professional network that I used to have.
Do you have any suggestions as to how to overcome this gap in my work history?
You are not alone. Do not despair. You could bring a wealth of valuable skills, strengths and experience to any employer’s table. The issue is as to how you fit into today’s labour market with all that you have to offer.
Let’s start with your resume. According to my colleagues at JVS Toronto, if your unemployment covers two calendar years of more, employers will start taking notice of the gap and you need to explain it. Consider all the things you were doing that time (volunteer work, school activities, internships, schooling, travel, and so on) and present it in a way that’s relevant to your job objective, if possible. Explain what you were doing in a way that is honest and feels comfortable to you.
Here are some suggestions as to how to put this in your resume to cover the gaps in a section titled Other Experience, which you can add after you list your Relevant Professional Experience. In your case, you might include phrases with the dates such as Full-Time Parent, Home Management, Family Management, to name a few.
Did you volunteer during the time you were not working? Volunteering gives you recent experience to add to the resume — just make sure to identify it as Unpaid Work,Volunteer or Community Work. Employers love this! Volunteering also offers you a chance to develop experience and skills which may be relevant to Project Management or Project Coordination, and may be a source for a more recent reference.
Keep in mind that you might have to start at the beginning again. A Project Coordinator position could be a start and then you can build your career back up to where you left it over two years ago.
Next, research, research and research the local labour market, as if you are starting a new career. Target companies where you would like to work, visit their websites, examine the job openings that are advertised, identify job postings that you are interested in. Try to get a sense of what jobs are out there for you. I highly recommend you post a thorough profile on LinkedIn and leverage this site to see who is currently working in your field, learn more about your sector. You may even find your long lost colleagues. Try to reconnect with them on LinkedIn (or even Facebook might work for your situation).
I would also target professionals in your field and cold call to arrange information interviews. Get an idea of how the market looks, who is hiring and what they are hiring for. It’s time to start building your professional network once again and preparing a relevant, targeted resume and cover letter appropriate for your career goal; and start applying for jobs.
Volunteering at a non profit such as Habitat for Humanity might be a good starting point as this is in your field of construction. Perhaps volunteer at the professional association, attend trade shows, conferences and workshops, some of which are at no cost. You could contact the organizers and see if you can volunteer (maybe even apply for a job!).
If you notice that many of the job postings require certain certification, it’s time to start looking into professional development and education opportunities in the community which are recognized by your industry. Although this costs money, if you note in your cover letter that you are registering for a course in, for example, Project Management, you will demonstrate that you are serious about this profession and that you are a lifelong learner too!
These are just some tips based on my experiences working with other job seekers in a similar situation. Do not do this alone. It is an overwhelming process. I recommend you connect with an Employment Counsellor to discuss my feedback and start the ball rolling, with one step at a time!
To submit your questions for this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.