You’ve read it and if you’re in career transition, you’ve experienced it. It’s not right, it’s not fair, but it is the harsh reality of today’s job market. Employers discriminate against the unemployed, because work gaps represent risk, including:
- Risk that you haven’t kept your skills sharp
- Risk that others have felt you’re not a good candidate
- Risk that you really don’t want to work
- Risk that you’ve been in jail – yes, recruiters/HR reps really do screen for this
So what do you do about resume gaps?
Why not fill them?
For many of you, that’s easier said than done, because no one’s taught you effective ways to fill resume gaps that are both truthful as well as attractive to employers.
Volunteer work is very nice thing to do … but it might not help your job search.
Many candidates rely on volunteer work as gap-fillers. Depending on the type of volunteer work you do and how you present it, volunteer work can be a great gap-filler … or irrelevant and weak.
I figure you probably want to avoid things that make your resume irrelevant and weak – so I’ll show you some ineffective ways that many try to use volunteer gap-fillers but also point out ways to present volunteer experience that work well.
Examples of volunteer work that might not help your job search:
These examples fill the gap … they just don’t fill it with information that helps you very much. Sure, you can show that you were serving soup instead of jail time, but you’ll have a tough time demonstrating that the following examples are relevant to your targeted job.
- Unrelated: If you’re trying to get a job in manufacturing, it won’t be much help to list your volunteer work as your kid’s homeroom Mom, baseball coach, or scout leader. While this type of experience might be relevant if you’re searching for a job where you work with kids, using these to show you’ve kept your management skills sharp won’t look credible. Sure, you managed people … but these were kids, not adults.
- Out of date tools: Many volunteer organizations aren’t as well funded as private companies, so they’re less likely to use up-to-date tools. Listing that you developed software in BASIC for your favorite local charity won’t carry much weight if you’re looking for a job as a Ruby programmer.
- Size/Scope: Size matters – While listing that you were a board member of your condo association shows that you can work with difficult people, don’t expect that this will impress mid-large employers that you’ve kept your management skills sharp. Mid-large sized employers can clearly recognize the huge difference between working with a group of 5 people vs managing a department with hundreds of employees.
Instead, seek out these types of volunteer opportunities that can strengthen your resume while also filling your gap:
Hopefully, you can better see that not all volunteer experience is created equal. Some experience may help you if you’re looking for certain jobs, but may hurt if you’re looking for work where your volunteer gig isn’t relevant.
If you’re serious about landing a new job, your volunteer work isn’t just about giving back to the community. If you’re not also seeking out volunteer work that also helps your career, you miss out on an important opportunity to show your skills are still razor sharp, relevant … and maybe even improved.
Readers, please comment: What types of volunteer opportunities are you working on and how are they relevant to your job goals?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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