Reentering the workforce after several years of unemployment can be extremely difficult for job seekers. There are a number of reasons and factors for why you might have a lengthy gap in your document. There may have been a period of time when you had to take time off from your job to care for your children or have faced an important medical or personal crisis.

Although crafting a resume after years of unemployment isn’t easy, there are many ways to build an effective document that can help you jumpstart your career and reenter the workforce. The key to creating a compelling resume is leveraging your past achievements and current skill sets and showcasing how they align with the needs of the organization you’re applying to. Throughout this guide, we’ll provide insights to help you craft your resume and reignite your professional career.

How To Write a Resume When You Haven’t Worked in Years

The first step in this process is to leverage your past work experience, no matter how dated it may be. Hiring managers will be most interested in seeing skills and achievements from your previous employment history that match what the company is looking for in a candidate. Although it may be challenging to come up with numbers and metrics in this circumstance, you should go the extra mile to craft compelling bullet points that provide insights into your most compelling career experience. If you’re seeking to start a career in a new industry, you’ll want to focus on skill sets and transferable accomplishments across fields.

List Volunteer Experience, Associations, and Independent Projects

Using volunteer experience, associations, and independent projects can help fill in some gaps in your timeline on the resume. However, these might not always seem relevant to the position you’re pursuing. For example, suppose you were coordinating a significant home renovation and interfacing with contractors. In that case, you may be able to highlight this as a way of demonstrating project management skills.

Volunteerism experience can also go a long way in enhancing the strength of this application, as this will show that although you weren’t employed, you were devoting much of your free time to helping others within your community. This will speak to who you are as an individual and will also provide some insights into what you were doing during your employment gap. Another option is to feature associations you were a part of on your resume. For instance, if you were serving on a school board or a local community association, you may be able to use these experiences to draw attention to your leadership, communication, and administrative skills on your resume. Although these details may not be directly related to your target industry, they’re better than having nothing to address the timeline gap.

Build out Your Skills Section

Because you haven’t held a job in several years, you’ll want to use your existing skill sets to your advantage during the application process. A strong resume skills section that draws attention to your relevant qualifications will help show hiring managers that you have the necessary experience to succeed in the position despite the employment gap. Focus on integrating keywords and skills that match the job description, as this will also ensure that your document is fully optimized for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

Should You Provide a Direct Explanation for the Gap on the Resume?

Although you might think you should explain the job gap at the top of your document, this is often the wrong strategy for reentering the workforce. Opening your resume with an explanation for why you’ve been unemployed, will draw attention away from your relevant qualifications. You want to highlight the positive aspects of your background and skill sets rather than open up with a reason for your lack of employment. The gap will be visible to the reader, but you’ll be able to explain the gap in a much better manner during the interview.

That said, if you want to provide an explanation for the gap on your resume, you can create a separate section to address it further down on your document. The key here is to avoid leading with this explanation, as this is a poor strategy for crafting a compelling personal brand on your resume. You can visit our guide explaining resume gaps for more information on this topic.

Consider Furthering Your Education

Although this may not be an option for everyone, given the financial requirements, continuing your education can be helpful when attempting to reenter the workforce. Even showing that you’re in the process of pursuing a degree will showcase that you’re committed to furthering your career and growing within your industry. In this instance, you could also list an expected graduation date based on the number of credits you plan to complete each year.

Obtain New Industry Certifications

Another potential option is to obtain new industry certifications within your field. This will show prospective employers that you’ve stayed active within your space despite the employment gap. It will also demonstrate your familiarity with current industry standards, skill sets, and concepts. Depending on your field, it may also require less of a financial and time commitment to complete these certifications.

If you have a significant employment gap on your resume, leveraging your referrals can go a long way in helping you make a positive impression on the hiring manager. Having a past employer or industry connection vouch for you can alleviate some of the concerns associated with your lack of employment history in recent years. Be sure to gather your referrals before you start the application process, as you may need them to get over the hump during your job search.

How to Explain Employment Gaps During the Interview

When explaining a gap in your work history during the interview, it’s important to be honest and candid. Hiring managers will appreciate a straightforward explanation, which may also help to alleviate some concerns and narratives that could develop if you provide a vague answer to the question. Employers are much more understanding of employment gaps than you might believe and providing a clear explanation might help them to relate to your circumstances. That said, avoid focusing only on the negative aspects of why you were unemployed, as you want to remain poised and confident throughout the interview.

Build Out Your LinkedIn Profile

Building your LinkedIn profile can be a powerful tool to help you reenter the workforce when you haven’t worked in years. Creating a strong About section at the top of your profile allows you to provide additional insights into who you are as a person and as a professional using less formal language than you would typically use on a resume. LinkedIn will also allow you to network with industry professionals and thought leaders within your space, which may help uncover opportunities and obtain new referrals.

Don’t Get Discouraged During the Job Hunt

It’s easy to get discouraged during the job search following a rejection. Remember that there are many reasons that candidates are passed over for job roles and that finding the right opportunity will take time due to the employment gap. It’s important to remain patient and diligent during the application process. If you continue to persevere, the right opportunity will present itself, and you’ll be able to reignite your career.

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Frank Hackett

Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)

Frank Hackett is a professional resume writer and career consultant with over eight years of experience. As the lead editor at a boutique career consulting firm, Frank developed an innovative approach to resume writing that empowers job seekers to tell their professional stories. His approach involves creating accomplishment-driven documents that balance keyword optimization with personal branding. Frank is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) with the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PAWRCC).

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