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Receiving a pink slip from an employer is not only disheartening, but it can derail your career. Competition for jobs can be fierce, and if your resume doesn’t present your skills and experience in the best possible light, you could stay unemployed for months, or even years. Properly addressing your layoff on your resume can keep you in the running and get you back to work sooner rather than later.
How you format your resume can make a big difference in how you’re perceived by potential employers. Instead of following a chronological format, which highlights your job gaps, use a hybrid approach that combines the chronological and functional formats. Begin with a bulleted list of your skills and achievements; for example, if you are seeking a sales position, write a summary of qualifications that describes your sales skills and experience. Carefully read job postings. Follow with a list of five to 10 bullet points listing your greatest sales achievements, using specific facts and figures, and then list the specific employers and positions. Using this approach will show potential employers what you are capable of without drawing attention to your current employment situation.
Having a gap in your employment history due to a layoff might raise some red flags to potential employers, but using your time out of work productively can actually enhance your marketability. When you update your credentials, include information about the volunteer work, education or freelance work you engaged in during your unemployment. For example, if you served on the board for a major fund-raising event and shattered previous fund-raising records, include that experience on your resume. Treat your volunteer or educational pursuits as the equivalent of a job on your resume. The experience is valid and may entice an employer to learn more about you.
When you list employment dates, you have the option of simply listing the years (and not including months). This can camouflage the length of your employment gaps, but it can also be a red flag to potential employers. You might be better off listing the specific months of your employment. Doing so is more forthright and transparent. When the employer conducts reference checks, he is going to discover the actual employment dates anyway. And never write the end date as “Present,” as in “2007-present.” That is dishonest, and can take you out of the running.
During challenging economic times, it’s possible that you have been laid off multiple times. While it’s not generally a good idea to list the reasons that you left a position, if you have a number of short-term positions due to layoffs, you can indicate that in the job listing. Stating that you were laid off helps prevent the perception that you’re a job hopper. Underneath the company name and employment dates, write a short explanation, such as “Company closed” or “Company acquired by XYZ Corporation, resulting in staff layoffs.” Do this only when you have multiple job changes, or when it’s been several months since the layoff.
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An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer and editor, specializing in careers, business, education, and lifestyle topics. The author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), which covers everything from career and financial advice to furnishing your first apartment, her work has also appeared in Young Money, Lewiston Auburn Magazine, USA Today, and a variety of online outlets. She's also been quoted as a career expert in many newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Parade. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.