Sometimes the length of your tenure at a company (or several) is beyond your control. If you’ve been laid off or unknowingly went down with the proverbial ship, there may be some gaps you’d rather not bring to a hiring authority’s attention. Luckily, Taunee Besson, career transitions expert and President and Principal Consultant at Dallas-based Career Dimensions, knows some clever solutions for minimizing employment gaps on a resume. — Maurice Gilbert
Q: Last week I was told for the third time in the last five years that my company is being acquired. While I haven’t been let go yet, I know it’s only a matter of time until my department is eliminated or moved to another state. Consequently, I’m revamping my resume once more. Is there any way I can minimize my changing jobs three times in the last five years and de-emphasize the recent gaps in my employment?
A: Unfortunately, downsizing has become a way of life for many companies. Stockholders are demanding a quick return on their investment, and cutting payroll is the fastest way to improve the bottom line. Merger mania also leads to massive layoffs as combined companies reduce redundancy in their workforce. Fortunately, for every organization letting people go, there are several expanding their headcount and desperate to hire new employees. Employers are very aware of this trend. It’s likely they will understand why your work history has been spotty the last few years and hire you anyway.
However, there’s no reason to display your job hopping like a red badge of courage when you can focus on your achievements instead. Rather than using a chronological format, which emphasizes your dates of employment, consider switching to a functional or hybrid approach, which highlights your experiences compared to the opening’s requirements.
First, look at the job description to determine its key functions. For instance, a training position’s main activities might include needs assessment, training design, facilitation and program evaluation. Using each of these phrases as a section title, pull your most important accomplishments from all of your previous positions and list them in order of importance under the appropriate title. A trainer might include under the heading “Training Design:”
- Created a one-day seminar for all levels of the organization on dealing effectively with change
- Designed a cutting-edge workshop on conflict resolution attended by 2,000 people across the U.S.
- Collaborated with colleagues in nine countries to put together a training program on how to adjust to foreign cultures
- Adapted an off-the-shelf customer service training program to meet the specialized needs of the telecommunications industry
After you’ve completed your functional section, which may easily take the first page of your resume, you can include a list of your job titles, companies and dates of employment under a section called “Work History.” Put the dates to the right on each line and conceal the time gaps between positions by using years only, instead of months and years. Example:
|Senior Trainer||Telecom Incorporated||1998-2000|
While not every recruiter will appreciate this type of resume, it will attract the attention of the ones more interested in your achievements than your chronological work history. Those who fixate on dates will have a problem with your employment record whatever format you use.
Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.
“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.
Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.
In 1994, the Dallas Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development chose her as its “Professional of the Year”. Her NBEW columns were selected for the “Ten Best Article Award” in 1990, 1994 and 1997. In 1999, Alpha Gamma Delta, a 200,000 member fraternal organization, named her as one of three “Distinguished Citizens” at its biannual international convention.