Susan Gerson is an accomplished marketing professional with strong experience in public relations, professional services, marketing and resume writing. Susan opened Gerson, etc. in 2005 after many years as a marketing professional in the health care industry. She has a particular focus in developing effective collateral materials, strategic marketing planning and implementation. Her contact email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
AZ asks: What should we tell a newly divorced woman in her 50’s who has to now support herself? “I have not been working for ten years while raising our kids. I had a great career before kids—can I just get a similar job?”
First of all, YES you have been working for the past ten years. Being a full-time mother is one of the hardest jobs out there and should be treated that way. Don’t hesitate to list this on your resume just like any other position you have held. After all, raising children is VERY hard work. My suggestion would be that you list it as your most current job including the dates, title (full-time mother) and then all of your job responsibilities including scheduling, finances, educational tutoring, logistics, community involvement, fund raising responsibilities, etc. Use your creativity and imagination to determine how to describe your daily responsibilities while tying it back to a similar job and responsibilities you previously held.
Although you may not enter into a company at the same level you had previously held, don’t get discouraged. Continue to go after the jobs that you want and that you know you are qualified for. Be confident in your capabilities…and yourself. Remember, one of your most important goals right now is for you to get your foot in the door. Once you have accomplished this, your talents and expertise will shine.
AZ asks: How should I update my resume if there is a big gap?
Most of the time, a gap in your resume is nothing to be ashamed of. Go back and think about what you did during that time. You may have volunteered, or gone back to school to learn a new skill, or perhaps there was an extenuating circumstance that kept you out of the work force. Just be honest when you explain a gap. If you were out of work because of a health or personal issue such as a family member becoming ill or passing away, mention it and then focus on what you have done to handle the situation. Also, sometimes just adjusting the date format helps eliminate the appearance of some gaps. If you have been listing your employment dates using “Month/Year” try changing it to only the year.
If you lost your job because of a problem with your performance make sure you respond honestly when asked and never put the blame on someone else. Make sure you answer in a very clear, very calm and very concise manner stating exactly what the issue was and what you have done to make sure it doesn’t happen again. When under pressure, we all tend to ramble a little…try not to. Respond only to the immediate question being asked.
AZ asks: How long do I go back?
Well, that really depends on how much of your previous experience is important and relevant to your current job search. Remember, your resume should not be a listing of every job you have ever held over the years. You need to think of your resume as your own own personal marketing piece targeted towards your current situation and goals. When completing your resume, you want to pick and use the most relevant and significant experiences that presents your talents and expertise in the most connected-manner possible. There really is no rule of thumb as too how many years you need to go back. Some people say 10 years, others say 15 years. My recommendation is that you include any and all experiences and positions that are appropriate, beneficial and add value to your area of expertise no matter what the time frame is.
AZ asks: How do I present my volunteer work experience?
You need to present your volunteer community experiences on your resume in the same format as your paid professional experience, starting with your most recent experience first. This will help highlight your productivity since your last paid position. Remember to separate your paid work history from any volunteer work history.
I suggest starting with a Professional Experience section, then an Education credential section and finally a Community Activities history. Under Community Activities, include the title of the volunteer position, a description of your duties and responsibilities, any skills that you acquired, dates of service, the number of hours you contributed and any training you might have received. If you were asked to attend any workshops or conferences as a representative of the organization, make sure you include that. It shows that you are a trusted and valuable asset to the organization. Remember, all potential employers want to know outcomes in addition to the skills that you have obtained so back-up your successful volunteer efforts with quantifiable data: the amount of money you raised, number of volunteers you recruited, any major sponsorships you successfully obtained for an event, positive press coverage you received on behalf of the organization, etc.