If you’re unemployed and worried about dust collecting on your resume, there’s no need to panic.
According to CareerBuilder, 85 percent of employers said they’re more understanding about post-recession employment gaps. Whether it’s been six weeks or six months since your last job, it’s important not to stress about the space in your resume. There are endless opportunities to help you fill in any gaps due to unemployment — you just have to know where to look.
But keep in mind that just because employers are more understanding about unemployment doesn’t mean you automatically receive a free pass. It’s up to you to be proactive during your unemployment to gain experience and improve your skills. If you want to quickly land a job, it’s essential to develop your skills and gain experience to compensate for the time you had off from work.
If you’re unemployed and want to strengthen your resume, here are some tips to help you fill in the gaps:
1. Take a class or attend a workshop.
One thing job seekers don’t realize is that their career is more than just having a job — it’s about being a lifelong learner, too. If you’re looking to brush up on your skills or learn a new skill that’s in-demand, this is a great time to take advantage of the opportunity to enroll in a class or workshop. Your skills require constant development as you advance in your career. As you search for classes and workshops, try to enroll in those which will provide you with the most up-to-date training. This will be a sure-fire way to catch the attention of employers by adding an in-demand skill to your resume. Plus, you’ll be able to keep your skills fresh so that when you return to work, it doesn’t feel like you missed a beat.
2. Consider freelance or contract work.
There’s no better way to improve your resume than gaining tangible experience. Freelance and contract work is a great opportunity; you can build your resume and earn a little income at the same time. According to a survey by Intuit, more than 40 percent of the workforce will be freelancing by 2020. Whether you choose to use freelancing or contract work to fill in the gaps, it’s a great way to utilize your time as you figure out your career path. Employers will also be impressed that you took the initiative to continue gaining experience during your unemployment.
3. Polish up your personal brand.
While you’ll be spending the majority of your unemployment searching for jobs, you also need to make sure your online presence is a reflection of your resume. Whether you spend time learning new skills, taking classes, or freelancing, find opportunities to boost your resume and personal brand. Sometimes, it can be difficult to stay motivated when labeled as “unemployed.” But if you take the time to ensure your online presence is consistent with your resume, you’ll be more likely to get yourself noticed by employers.
Another powerful way to strengthen your resume is to do volunteer work. Never underestimate the power of volunteering — it gives you the opportunity to learn new skills, gain accomplishment stories, and give back to your community. When employers see volunteer experience on a resume, it tells them a candidate is compassionate, driven, and enthusiastic. As you gain volunteer experience, take note of your accomplishments and responsibilities. This will help you quantify the experience section on your resume and give employers a chance to see how you can make a difference.
5. Make industry connections.
Believe it or not, networking can be a great way to help you improve your resume during unemployment. Research shows that 40 percent of job seekerscredited a referral for their current jobs. Not only will you make connections that could lead to jobs, but you can also connect with professionals who could serve as a mentor. It’s always a good to have a friend or colleague who can review your resume and give you some pointers. This is especially true if you can make a connection with someone in your field — they can provide accurate advice on improving your resume to make you irresistible to employers.
6. Start a business.
If you really want to strengthen your skill set, consider opening your own business. Although starting a business is a fairly large commitment and investment, it will definitely pay off during your unemployment. Starting a business demonstrates leadership and initiative, which are two soft skills employers strongly desire. Not only will you gain experience, but you’ll also learn the skills that come along with opening a business.
7. Focus on your career goals.
When facing unemployment, it can be easy to lose sight of your career goals. Whether you’ve used unemployment to pursue other goals, or you’ve become discouraged about your career path, your career goals need to be at the forefront of your job search. It will help you know where to look for jobs, and most importantly, find new opportunities to update your resume. For example, think of a goal you’ve always wanted to accomplish, but couldn’t because you were working full-time. Take this opportunity to learn a skill you’ve never had the time to learn. By doing this, you’ll be able to accomplish your goals while adding another line to your resume.
Gaining experience and keeping your skills fresh during unemployment doesn’t have to be stressful or daunting. Just remember to focus on your goals, the skills and experience you have to offer, and improving your personal brand. This way, you’ll be able to fill in the gaps on your resume and impress an employer’s socks off when you apply for a job.
What tips do you have for improving your resume during unemployment?
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and#ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.