Last week I was doing a LinkedIn consultation with a professional who had taken time (a couple of years?) off to care for her father. She has had a fantastic, awesome career, but didn’t know how to explain her years off. She asked me how to explain this, and I reached out to career professionals in the Career Directors LinkedIn Group for advice. The experience these professionals have is broad and deep, which is why I like getting input from different professionals. Below is what I learned. I hope this can help you if you are in this situation:
Hi Jason – I would also use a sabbatical statement such as the ones Don provided. I also might just insert a statement such as:
“Took two-year leave to serve as caretaker for parent. Stayed current on industry trends and learning to remain fully prepared for next corporate challenge.”
Employers want to know that your knowledge is up-to-date as far as their needs, and that your skills aren’t rusty. There are plenty of free online courses to help even those very immersed in their caretaker roles.
Jason — I don’t think it requires a big explanation. I would either put “Family sabbatical,” “Personal Sabbatical” or “Professional Sabbatical” without adding anything else in either resume or cover letter. It just accounts for the time. And I only use years, not months/years.
There are millions and millions of Baby Boomers taking care of parents (myself included). And over the past several years I have worked with many people who have relocated, quit their jobs or took part-time work to handle what their parents need.
It is very common now and nothing your client should be nervous about. You never know that maybe the person reading would have given their eye teeth to be able to take time off work rather than feeling guilty that their job was keeping them from doing it..
I moved my mother with Alzheimer’s into assisted living in January. I was at part-time work until about the end of July because none of her affairs were in order. And I’m still dealing with two attorneys, etc. even though I’m close to full time work now. I would have had to quit a corporate job.
But in the first half of the year there was absolutely no way I could have been doing anything related to my work for keeping up with my industry or anything else. I was up to 3 am, 5 am and more trying to sell my mother’s home and everything else. I would not have been able to even think about online coursework because it frankly was not my top priority and I was exhausted.
And I wouldn’t include “fully resolved” because I think it then puts the reader in a slightly awkward position of assuming that mom or dad actually died.
Jason, I try to be as straightforward as possible, composing a quote based on the client’s circumstance. Also, I usually refer to it as a “professional leave” or “career break” because I feel the word “sabbatical” has some nuances that don’t necessarily apply to every situation.
I place the quote under the Professional Experience heading.
2012 to Oct. 2014: “I took a professional leave to attend to my terminally ill brother; following his passing, I engaged in a variety of professional development opportunities to maintain credentials and volunteer roles to keep abreast of industry trends.”
You get the gist. It may be wordy and it may be slightly shocking, but on the other hand, it leaves nothing to the imagination of the reader. Plus, the dates will (ideally) be captured by ATS.
Thanks to Don, Mary, Irene and Christine for sharing their thoughts – if you have a different idea, please share it in the comments below!
I get Liz Handlin’s newsletter. She gave me permission to post this from her newsletter… I thought it was interesting. Liz says these are her questions and his answers over coffee (learn more about Jeff Browning here):
Liz says “Jeff may see more resumes than any other recruiter in Texas so his perspective on what a resume should say and how it should look is crucial information for job seekers.”
Nine times out of ten, when someone asks me to look at their resume, I’m assuming it’s because they want me to make an introduction, or help them find a job. I don’t assume it’s because they really want my feedback on their resume.
Maybe you have truer intentions, and only want feedback on the resume, but the truth is, I’m not the person to give it to you. My brain and resumes don’t mix very well. They are too formal, with boundaries that I think are dumb. I can point out glaring issues, but so can most people. Why are you taking up my time (and potential help) by asking me for something that doesn’t make sense.
It’s like asking your neighbors to check your oil in your car. You can do it, you can learn to do it, or you can find someone qualified to do it. But you don’t ask all of your neighbors to check your oil, right?
If you really want my help with your job search, find out how I can help you, and then ask for that! It might be networking, introductions, sitting down and giving you ideas, participating in a mock interview, or a host of other things. But don’t let the first request be “will you look at my resume?”
There comes a time when you have to stop hiding behind “I’m working on my resume” and realize you simply need to have the right conversations with the right people. And you don’t need to use your resume to do that.
Julie Walraven of Design Resumes has a great post titled The Chief Cause Of Many Poor Hiring Decisions. She starts off with CareerBuilder’s new stat about how long hiring managers spend reviewing resumes…as we know, it’s pathetically low.
But then Julie takes her post in an unexpected direction: how long SHE, as a professional resume writer (she is certified and has been doing this, afaik, for over two decades): she will easily spend six hours creating a resume. Usually that is for an entry-level person. It’s not unusual for her to spend ten or more hours designing a resume.
Julie is an “expert,”having investing more than 10,000 hours in her trade to claim expertise. When I lost my job I spent a couple of weeks fumbling around trying to piece together my own resume. I had no expertise, experience or training… just an attitude that if I could put myself through two degrees, I could certainly write a one or two page document!
I didn’t understand that a resume was not simply a list with work history, dates and some “cool” action verbs. I thought I could easily put that document together… but what I didn’t realize was what a great resume really is.
A great, even an excellent resume, is a marketing document. Coincidentally, a sucky resume is also a marketing document – it just screams: don’t hire me!
A resume is not a standard business document for filing away in a three ring binder, simply to be forgotten. Your resume has a very specific purpose. What’s more, the “judge” of your resume is going to take your days, weeks, and for some of you, months of work and give it a cursory 30 or 120 seconds… it’s almost an atrocity!
But really, spending less than two minutes really is NOT an atrocity.
You see, it’s not about YOU. It’s not about the amount of work you put in. It’s not about how amazing you are, how clever you are, or how dumb the viewer is for not “getting” how brilliant you are.
This is all about THEM. Pursuing you will reflect on them and could have an impact on their career. Are they capable of hiring the RIGHT person? Can they hire the BEST person? Or will they hire a dud, or a lemon? This could cost them their job! Hiring the wrong person could sink the entire company!
If an expert, like Julie Walraven, spends six hours to develop the most basic of resumes, which she can only do because she has over ten thousand+ hours of writing resumes, what makes you think that you, or I, without this expertise, can “throw something together” in a few hours, and have it be good enough (much less great!)?
The mistakes I would make would undoubtedly cause my resume to be in the “under-ten-seconds-and-then-throw-away” pile. Whether that is a typo or a grammar mistake, or not using the best word(s) to put us in the right light, it will cost me.
I know there are people out there, including one of my favorite recruiters (Steve Levy… read his blog!) who say that we must write our own resumes, and hiring a resume writer is as good as hiring a charlatan (those are my words, but that’s the message I hear from him). I agree that we should do a lot of work to help get the resume done. We should put our hearts into it. We should spend time going through our past, listing our accomplishments, and doing the very hard work of self- and career-evaluation.
But I still think we should run it past a real resume writer who will polish our final marketing document so that it gets more time, and more respect, from the person evaluating whether they should bring you in for an interview or not. (professional resume writers are not merely polishers. They are experts in creating perhaps the most improtant marketing document at this point in your career)
Convinced you need resume help? I suggest considering either of these two options:
We’re working on creating an list of specialized resume writers that you can reach out to on your own… stay tuned
The point is, make sure that you are putting enough time and resources into getting this marketing document put together the right way.
I follow my Austin buddy Liz Handlin, owner of Ultimate Resumes, on Facebook and am entertained by her experiences with job seekers. Here’s something she shared on Facebook recently…. see my comments below the box. (I [edited] some of this to try to protect anyone who needs protecting, although I imagine this plays out dozens of times each month)
Folks, seriously. The MAIN issue here is that the job seeker (aka, the marketer, or person marketing their services) made it HARD for the decision-maker (buyer) to make a decision. What’s worse, they intentionally made it harder!
I get that you want people to get to your LinkedIn profile, but consider your audience, and the situation. If you are in an interview, the interviewer usually has their resume in front of you (so they don’t mix you up with the fifty other people they are interviewing/considering). If your resume doesn’t have any meat, what are they to do? Remember how awesome your LinkedIn profile is?
Give them the information they need when they need it, which is on the resume.
I know you want your LinkedIn profile to be your resume, but for now, until people catch up to your vision, you need to play the game. They expect a marketing document from you that has sufficient information (aka, your resume), and they use this marketing document to compare you with your competition, who has a similarly formatted marketing document (aka, resume). If your formatting is not close enough to the rest, you might be discarded. If your information is not deep or broad enough, and the others are, you might be discarded.
This is called “the game.” For now, the rules are established, and they have been for decades. You can try to make a statement and change the rules, and it might work with some companies and some people, but you risk losing out to others who know the rules of the game.
I don’t need to talk about the one-page thing, or the graphic in the middle thing, but I do want to address the “go to my Profile” issue.
On my webinars I tell people that they need to understand the concept of channel and destination. This job seeker was using his resume as a channel to get to the destination (the LinkedIn profile). He did it poorly, by not putting a link, but still, that was his intention.
Are you sure you really want to send someone to your LinkedIn profile as the destination? Or, are you hoping the LinkedIn profile is one more step in the channel to get to the destination? I can’t answer that for you, but for me:
MY LINKEDIN PROFILE IS NOT THE DESTINATION I WANT YOU TO GET AT.
When I was finishing my basement the heating and air guys came in. We talked about where we wanted vents, and they said every time you put a bend in the duct work it decreases efficiency (after they bend) by some crazy amount, like 25% or 33%. In other words, every time the air has to bend (usually at 90 degrees), you lose efficiency. Put a bunch of bends in one line and you won’t get much air out of the vent.
This is the same for the channel/destination concept. Each time you give someone something with the hope that they will go somewhere else, you lose a part of their interest. Just send them to where you want to send them first, without having them jump through hoops, go around bends, and ultimately get distracted!
There is a lot of buzz about how to get your resume through an ATS (aka: applicant tracking system). An ATS is to a recruiter what JibberJobber is to a job seeker. It is a tracking system.
Before I go on, if you don’t think you need JibberJobber to keep track of your job search, realize that HR and recruiters are using some kind of ATS or tracking system to keep track of you. Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight – get on JibberJobber!
In yesterday’s Ask The Expert call with The Recruiting Animal, Animal said he doesn’t use an ATS, and that is really something that internal recruiters are going to use. In other words, getting your resume through an ATS is not going to be an issue for ALL recruiters.
Recently a JibberJobber user sent me a resume that one of my colleagues did for him and asked me what I thought.
The resume was really quite impressive. I’m not surprised. The resume writer is someone who has been doing this for a long time and loves to stay current and do a great job.
My first impression after looking at the resume was that this guy had decades of doing amazing things. The companies he worked at, and the products he worked on, are household names.
If I were interviewing I would want to satisfy curiosities and ask more. I would want to ask stories about his experience. Some of my questions would be because it would be intriguing to know, and others to learn how involved and instrumental he really was in each of the things he claims on his resume.
He needs to go through his resume, pull out every claim, and put at least one story behind it.
I’m not much for critiquing resumes. I almost always decline when someone asks me to look at their resume. But I opened this one and that was my very first impression. You have a great resume, now what? Be ready to TELL STORIES!
My second thought was to be careful not to ask too many UNQUALIFIED people their opinion of the resume you just got. I asked people for opinions of my resume and the information I got was misleading (making me think it was great, while it really kept me out of interviews). Everyone will have their opinion but recognize this is a marketing tool to get you interviews, and that is it. Dick Bolles talked about resumes very frankly in our last Ask The Expert – you can view the interview here (he comes on 20 minutes into it).