For the nearly 360,000 U.S. veterans who leave military service each year, many experience a period of unemployment. Some veterans struggle with the transition from a military career to the corporate, civilian world. This leaves their resume showing a substantial break in employment. Their resume maybe dominated by a number of short-term or unrelated jobs either side of their military service. Meanwhile, other veterans have gaps in their work history due to injury or ill health. But despite these gaps, it is possible to boost your employment resume to help you look more favorable to potential employers. There are ways you can actually reshape gaps to be positive from a recruitment perspective without being dishonest or misleading the recruiter.
Remember that jobs don't have to be paid to count as work
Many people think of work in a very limited way. They believe that only paid work is relevant to the prospective employer which is simply not true. Even if a veteran has been dealing with illness or injury, there is often something they are doing that is relevant to their career. This might be helping a relative decorate their home, mending their computer, managing their family’s finances, volunteering, parenting, or perhaps helping other veterans make the move to live as a civilian. If you list one of these activities on a resume you can fill your employment gap. Treat each opportunity as you would a paid job by describing your role and highlighting your major contributions and accomplishments.
Take a creative approach to the way you demonstrate how the activities you did while out of paid work translates into actual employment skills that would be suitable for the job you are applying for. Focus on anything you learned about time prioritization, time management, budgeting, conflict resolution, and communication. Remember, the secret to a successful resume is to think of it as a reflection of your future. That means clearly focusing on the type of job you want and then to focus on what in your employment history, is most relevant to that position, regardless of whether it was a paid position or not.
Make sure the resume format works best for you
Your resume needs to do you justice, so instead of making it a list of jobs and dates, use it to highlight your skills. Consider starting your resume with a summary statement and career highlights section. This will positively highlight your skills and accomplishments, instead of simply focusing on when you did what. You need to look at reshaping the skills, qualifications, and experience you gained in the military to become relevant in the civilian, corporate world. So, put your qualifications and skills that are most pertinent to your career objectives as the focus, with the most emphasis on them.
If you’ve used your time away from work to do volunteering, then create a section on your resume that’s focused on your voluntary work. If possible, provide details about the organization you volunteered with, specifics about your role in the organization and the outcomes from your contributions. Experiences like this can be advantageous for any job you are interested in.
Be positive and focus on the future
Regardless of the reason for your employment gap, it’s important to reflect on it positively. Approaching it by saying that you simply couldn't find a new job isn't good enough in this competitive job market. Instead, focus on what you learned from the experience and the things you've done to improve your skills and performance.
Highlight any productive activities you did during your employment such as workshops, education courses, volunteer work, freelance or consulting work. Show your enthusiasm for getting back to work, even if in reality it feels like a hugely daunting experience. While it's easy to let rejections get you down, when it comes to each job you apply for you, you need to make a solid case for why it would be an exciting opportunity for you and how you would be an excellent fit.
Honesty is always the best policy, but don't dwell too much on the gaps
A break in your employment is no reason for a potential employer to turn down your application. However, if they find out you've been dishonest, then that certainly will put an end to your chances. So, whatever the reason for your gap in employment, if it's going to be obvious then without going into great detail, try to be as upfront as possible. This will give you a better chance of being offered the job.
However, you decide to modify your resume or present the gaps in your employment, you must ensure that your LinkedIn profile matches. An increasing number of employers look at candidates’ social media profiles before either inviting them to interview or making their final recruitment decision. Consistency is crucial to any job application being successful, so make sure the person they see in your resume or at the interview, is the same person they see online.
However, you choose to tackle the issue of your gaps in employment, don’t let it stand in your way of finding employment. As a veteran you have so much to offer, so make sure you focus on the positives and your dream job may just be around the corner.