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How to Address Employment Gaps in your Resume

How to Address Employment Gaps in your Resume

For the first time in a long time, the United States unemployment rate is back on track. At 5.5%, this rate means that more people are getting jobs and more companies are hiring. For many, this is the opportune time to get back to the job search, perhaps after an extended period of not working. There are a variety of reasons to take a leave from the work force, whether you get laid off or leave to serve in the military, have children, deal with family complications, or even to take the time to travel. The questions is: what are some of the best practices to address employment gaps in your resume?

Have Confidence Moving Forward

First of all, while you may minimize the attention paid to the gaps, there is no reason to feel ashamed or as though these gaps must be masked.

Be open in sharing your employment gap. Think about what you did during your time off and frame it to show that while you were not working in a traditional sense, you have improved from the experience. For example, did you do any job training? Have you taken any professional development classes? Did you do any volunteering during your leave? Take time to reflect on the skills and know-how you acquired and frame that into your resume or cover letter.

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Be Honest

After looking through countless resumes, recruiters or hiring managers are able to identify when something seems a little fishy. Many sources will tell you of strategic ways to hide your employment history by taking out the months to mask the duration of your unemployment. This is not the case. In fact, a hiring manager will mostly likely be less inclined to move forward with a candidate who appears to be misleading.

The important thing to remember in this is that as you move forward in the applicant process, you will be compelled to fully disclose your work history. Don’t back yourself into a corner where you appear deceptive. Be honest throughout the process.

Show Your Work

Perhaps during your gaps, you took on some temporary jobs, whether you were employed by another or by yourself. Try grouping these together, where logical. This will show that you remained active during a period of unsteady employment. Grouping will also help your skills and assets to be more visible than the job itself. For example, if you worked doing freelance writing while in between jobs, make that a header and list your achievements in that position, rather than listing the companies or organizations for whom you wrote. When it comes down to it, the desirable characteristics in an employee are not shown by where they worked, but by their character, work ethic, and skills.

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If you did a variety of jobs, classes, or projects during your unemployment, try making a section header and listing some of those accomplishments. The self- motivation needed for this type of work can reveal a lot about your work habits, which can be desirable. For example:

Maternity Leave, June 2015 – Present

  • Completed online Managerial Leadership Certificate at University of Texas McCombs School of Business during off hours
  • Developed procedures for on-boarding new volunteers at local youth sports organization

Emphasize Skills Over Chronology

In the same vein, emphasize your skills over your employment history. There are several ways to do this. The first is to be sure the bulleted points in your resume stand out and work for you. This means that they should not merely be listing the tasks of your job, but should instead show your specific accomplishments while in a position. Accomplishments are best displayed when they are quantified to prove your skill or expertise in a given area.

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Another way to emphasize your skills in your resume is to designate a skills section. A skills section can take the form of a list and should include skills applicable to the position for which you are applying. When listing skills, be sure to include both the full name of the skill and its abbreviated form so it is sure to register in Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS.

Look carefully at the job description to find resume keywords that should be mimicked in your resume. For example, if something like financial modelling is listed several times throughout the job description, be sure to highlight your experiences and successes with it — whether while in a steady job or during your employment gap. Using a tool like Jobscan.co makes it easy to see what those keywords are and maximize their usage. Again, your skills and character are important to recruiters.

Be Positive And Professional

Overall, remember that life happens. A gap in employment does not mean you are not a desirable candidate. Hiring managers ultimately want a good person, one whom they can trust. Focus on the positive and recognize the assets you can bring to a company. Take initiative and always act professionally. Don’t rule yourself out with your own attitude.

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Featured photo credit: Stokpik via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

But what does being productive actually entail?

Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

2. Turn off Notifications

According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

3. Manage Interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

4. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once famously said that:

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“if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

5. Cut Down on Meetings

Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

6. Utilize Tools

Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

Some examples of tools that could be used:

Communication
  • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
  • Samepage for video conference software.
  • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
Task Management
  • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
  • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
  • Wekan for an open source option.
Database Management
Time Tracking
  • Clockify for a free tracker.
  • TMetric for workspace integrations.
  • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

7. Declutter and Organize

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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9. Drink Water

Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

The Bottom Line

The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

Reference

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