At our last Career Help AMA on Reddit, we helped hundreds of people answer important career questions and now we have come back by popular demand! Many of the questions we answered this time around could be helpful to readers like you, so here are a few highlights:
Q: How would you account for a large gap of years of unemployment (wasn’t going to school either) in a resume? and interview?
A: You’ll want to be able to explain the gap confidently and reasonably. We commonly see medical absences or family-related choices — it’s good to be upfront about these reasons.
Every case is different — sometimes mentioning temporary freelance or consulting work can help support your resume. In most cases, we recommend including a placeholder for substantial gaps, especially if it’s for caretaking. However, if what you were doing during the gap does not fit into your overall career story, then we omit it from the resume. Cover letters are designed to help explain extenuating circumstances.
Q: What is the best way to get experience when a job requires you to have had experience in the first place?
A: Ah, the classic catch-22. Some hiring managers will follow prerequisites strictly, but many times we encourage our users (with success) to apply to roles even if they do not meet 100% of the experience requirements.
Freelance consulting or interning in a certain sector is a common way of adding experience — if that is not feasible, we would suggest highlighting your leadership abilities in your current role and making sure your interest in the new job field is readily apparent on the resume (make it very obvious).
Q: I’m facing a major uphill battle with a career switch. I have related, non-primary role experience in the new field, but i’m getting stonewalled into moving in the new industry – any tips / best practices I should keep in mind?
A: You’ll want to craft your resume as a 1-2 combination. First, you’ll want to highlight work experience that created tangible impact at your workplace. Second, you’ll have to demonstrate a burning passion for the new industry you’re looking to break into (at least on paper). What industry are you looking to join?
As an example, if you were breaking into financial services, you can demonstrate interest by listing various finance publications you read, indicating you are studying for certifications, and highlighting any side experience you have valuating companies.
Q: How should I handle using my current boss as a reference? I’m still fairly entry level (2.5 years of professional experience) and I am looking to change jobs. My only job after college is where I work now.
A: Talk to your boss about your long term career aspirations and how she/he can help you achieve them. Often they will be supportive and open to being your reference, and sometimes even helping you find some great opportunities (to evolve within the current company or somewhere outside). It’s important to establish your boss as a mentor who will help you be successful in your current role as as well as in the future.
Q: How would you list 2 years in a PhD program but leaving with no degree on a resume? The decision was my own and I maintained a high GPA and have a couple published papers from it. I’m looking to run away from research as far as I can, but I’m unsure how to market my skills to other sectors.
A: The best way to present your unfinished PhD is to keep your focus on the position you are applying for. Once you have researched both the company/institution and thoroughly read the position description, then pick out the skills and accomplishments that you gained during your time as an academic and present those.
As PhD student, you probably already worked as an author, analyst, translator, researcher, consultant, advisor, project manager, trainer and/or designer: all roles that are in high demand in many industries. You have extremely marketable skills, they just need to be re-framed in the language of your target industry! Make prospective employers understand concretely how your skills will serve them using their own words. The key is to sell yourself as a fellow professional (eg designer or educator) changing sectors and looking for a new challenge, not as an academic who did not quite finish.
Do you have other career conundrums? Send an advisor a message today!