by Amy Schofield, Guest Contributor
As military spouses we have to be creative when it comes to our resumes.
We could move halfway across the world at any given moment. We may live in a rural area where it is tough to continue working in certain career fields; we may live in a large city where we have to fight hundreds of other qualified applicants for one job opening; we may live overseas where there is a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in place making it nearly impossible to obtain a job outside of the military installation; or, we may take several years off to become stay-at-home parents.
When we are faced with any of these situations, we tend to dwell on what future employers may think of our time off from the working world.
Instead of focusing on the thought of having a 6-month, 2-year or 6-year (or however long you may be at your current duty station) resume gap, let’s focus on what you can do right now to make your resume shine when you’re re-entering the workforce.
5 Ways to Make Your Resume Shine When You’re Re-Entering the Workforce
1. Find Relevant Volunteer Opportunities. I know you have heard this a million times, but volunteering is an excellent way to fill in your resume gap.
The key is to choose relevant volunteer opportunities so that you can keep current in your field by continuing to practice your skills. Try to search for volunteer opportunities that complement your career.
If you are a veterinary technician, then you may want to volunteer at the local pet shelter. If you are a marketing analyst, you may want to reach out to nonprofit organizations to see if they need assistance evaluating their outreach programs. If you are in the nursing field, why not reach out to organizations that sponsor local races to see if they need volunteers at their medical tent to help with injured runners?
People you meet by volunteering can also serve as excellent references for future employers. Some volunteering can also be performed online! And, you never know when a volunteer opportunity can turn into paid employment.
Not sure how to include your volunteer time on your resume? These tips can help.
2. Submit a Proposal to Be a Guest Speaker. Build credibility by signing up to speak at seminars or conferences within your field.
Nothing says it better than having “Guest Speaker at Annual Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions” on your resume if you have previously been a Quality Assurance Manager for a hospital but have had to take some time off from work.
If speaking in front of 500 people at a national convention terrifies you, reach out to organizations or schools at a local level. Perhaps an interior design professor at a community college is looking for someone with hands-on interior design experience to speak to a class.
Or, seek out your local Chamber of Commerce and ask if they are looking for subject matter experts in your field at their next meeting.
Filling your paid time off with speaking opportunities is a great way to make your resume shine. Include a separate section on “Presentations” in your resume. Include the name of the organization you presented to, location, date and an overview of your topic.
3. Write Guest Posts or Articles for Trade Publications. Show off your expertise in your career field by writing articles or blog posts. Choose topics relevant to your career.
If you are an accountant, you may want to write pieces on personal budgeting. If you are in the realtor, you may want to share your knowledge of the changing market. If you are in the hospitality industry, why not write about local places of interest.
Each piece of writing that you create will show potential hiring mangers that you are keeping current in your field.
If you have resume gaps or have been out of the paid workforce for awhile, then having a “Publications” section on your resume will show a hiring manager that you are knowledgeable in your field and is another terrific way of making your resume shine when you are re-entering the workforce.
For each piece you publish, include the article name, publication name and date on a separate line. If you have multiple articles published in the same source you can summarize them together so this section reads more like a resume and less like a table of contents.
Pro-tip: Share these professional guest blogs or articles on LinkedIn.
4. Join a Professional Membership Association. A professional membership association is a great way to show that you remain interested in your career field while having to take time off from paid work.
If you are an aerospace engineer, you may want to join the Society of Women Engineers. If you are in the human resources field, you may want to keep your Society of Human Resources Management membership active while you are taking time off or join the local chapter for the time being to keep apprised of local events.
A professional membership association is also an important source of networking and many associations post job links solely for their membership base, which may be helpful for when you start looking for a job.
Pro-tip: Add a “Professional Memberships,” “Board Positions,” or “Community Leadership” section to your resume as another way to highlight your expertise and involvement with organizations on your resume as you re-enter the workforce.
5. Register for a Class. Participating in a course or attending a training is another way to demonstrate your commitment to your career field while taking time off from paid work.
If you are an administrative assistant, you could look into completing a Microsoft Office application training. If you have experience managing contracts, you could look into a Contract Management Certification.
If you want to keep costs down, see if your local city has enrichment classes that you can enroll in. You can also seek out online webinars to keep up-to-date on the latest information in your career field.
Add a “Certifications and Additional Training” section to your resume that includes the course name and organization to help make your resume stand out as you re-enter the workforce. If you are filling in resume gaps you can include the dates of the courses too.
Life as a military spouse can be unpredictable; prepare for gaps in your resume by exploring volunteering, speaking and writing opportunities or joining a professional membership association or taking a class. Each of these are great resume boosters for when you have to take time off from your career because your resume will show hiring managers that you kept your skills and knowledge current within your industry, which is key to re-entering the workforce.
What steps have you taken to make your resume shine after a gap in employment? Share your success stories in the comments section.
Amy Schofield, an Academy Certified Resume Writer and an Academy Certified Profile Writer, has 12+ years of experience in the recruiting, career coaching, and resume writing fields. She is the founder of Schofield Strategies, LLC TM, an organization that provides resume development and job search strategies to job seekers of various backgrounds and experience levels from around the world.
As an active-duty military spouse, she actively helps transitioning veterans and military spouses reach their career goals. Amy has been featured in GI Jobs, Reserve and National Guard Magazine, Army Wife Talk Radio, and Blue Star Families and serves as the Resume Expert for the National Military Spouse Network. Her work is published in the book “Modernize Your Job Search Letters: Get Noticed… Get Hired.” Schofield Strategies was the recipient of the 2013 Military Family Member Community Heartbeat Award.