Filling Resume Gaps – Part 3: Family leave

May 7 2012 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

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Family leave affects more than just working moms.

Family leave can affect anyone with a sick or elderly family member, especially one who needs care for longer than 12 weeks.

The problem for job seekers on an extended family leave or to raise children, is that you’re out of the workforce for a long time … long enough for your work skills to appear stale.

It isn’t fair, but it is …

Rather than complain about the unfairness of employers, why not learn what to do about it?

When employers show bias against candidates who have been out of the workforce for a while, they aren’t doubting that you worked hard while you were taking care of your children or family member. They aren’t doubting your productivity.

Employers doubt that your work skills are still sharp and still current.

This is especially an issue with technology. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a few years, your job has changed … just do to changes in software and the internet.

Hiring managers realize that you could learn how to adapt to these changes … they just don’t have the luxury of time to train you in today’s business environment of “do less with more”. Since most hiring managers have to meet their goals with fewer people than they really need – they’re understaffed, even at full headcount. So they look for people who don’t need training.

So what can you do to rebuild the skills that employers need?

You’ve got a number of options, depending on the skills employers want for the type of job you seek:

  1. General office skills: Volunteer to work in an office environment. This could be your church, a charity, a political campaign, or unpaid internship. The key to getting great volunteer experience for general office work is to find a place that uses the same technology as your target employers demand.
  2. Supervisory skills: The key to resharpening your supervisory skills is to take volunteer work where you supervise a team. Since it’s tough to walk right into a supervisory role, even in a volunteer position, look for volunteer opportunities where you’ve got the chance to lead a committee or run a project.
  3. Professional skills: If you’re in a highly technical job, and you’ve been away from it for awhile, look for opportunities to get back into the game. The volunteer opportunity to look for will depend on what skills you’re trying to redevelop. If you’re an accountant or in IT, it could be easy to find non-profit volunteer opportunities that could help. The more specialized you are, the more difficult this can prove. Few churches need someone to develop mobile apps or work in chemical engineering. Unpaid internships might work better for you if your skills (or goals) are highly specialized.
  4. Managerial and executive skills : As with supervisory skills above, it’s tough to walk right into a managerial and executive role as a volunteer if you’ve been out of the game for awhile. Your best bet might be an unpaid internship, from someone that you know. Also, startups typically love to give experience in exchange for unpaid internships.

Readers – any suggestions you’d like to add about closing gaps due to family leave? Please comment …

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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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