It’s no secret that an increasing number of men have opted to be stay-at-home dads, while even the most energetic career women sometimes have to leave the workforce because of family needs.

Even if years separate you from the last job and the new career goal, there are tricks to turning a potential negative into an asset – it’s just a matter of knowing what to do.

1. Never explain in a resume that you have been unemployed for a number of years.

Opening a resume with a negative immediately places you at a disadvantage to other candidates applying for the same position. Instead, you should focus on your skills and qualifications as they relate to the job opening. That’s really all a hiring manager wants to see.

2. Personal data regarding your hiatus should not be included in the document.

All too often, candidates feel they must be completely up-front in a resume, or somehow explain their absence from the workforce. Therefore, they include comments like: “Being a stay-at-home mom with Johnny was one of the most rewarding periods of my life.” (That may well be, but a hiring manager will wonder if that person will be effective and professional in a business environment.) or “A serious disease and subsequent operation took me out of the work force. However, now I feel quite well and am able to meet all work-related challenges.” (Most hiring managers would worry about hiring a candidate who was so seriously ill, and that person’s effect on the company’s health insurance premiums.)

3. Use a functional format that stresses skills, rather than a reverse-chronological format that stresses an unbroken history of employment.

Think of a resume as a marketing tool with you as the product. Showcase the positive (skills, qualifications, recent education in the chosen field), while downplaying the negative (employment gaps).

4. List any Volunteer work or Community Service that is relevant to your new career goal.

If you have organized numerous charitable functions, raised funds, directed a group of volunteers, or interfaced with the media about community-related events, these are all transferable skills.

5. Showcase only that Education and Training which is current to the career sought.

This is particularly true for someone in Information Technology. IT has changed so rapidly over the years that showcasing coursework or degrees attained even 10 years ago will date your document, and be certain to hurt your candidacy. Instead, current training – as it applies to the new career – should be showcased.

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