How to Explain Gaps on a Resume

By the Australian Careers Service

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Many people will experience a gap on their resume at some point or other, and with every single industry being impacted in some way by COVID-19 this year, it’s going to be even more common in the years ahead. 

Life happens. It might feel awkward having a gap on your resume, but you’re not alone. The good news is, many employers know and understand this. A gap is no longer the ‘big deal’ it used to be — as long as you explain why it’s there positively. 

Here are four ways to do just that: 

1. Prepare your answer 

The best way to explain any gap on your resume is to assume you’ll be asked about it and make sure you prepare your answer. 

Time out of the workforce can often make us feel less competitive and cagey about our reasons for taking time off. Spend some time thinking about why you were out of work, how long for, and what you did with that time — what did you learn and how will it benefit you in this role? Keep answers concise and confident.  

2. Just be honest 

Employers will question longer gaps because they want to make sure you’re committed to the job you’re up for — if you’ve taken time out for medical or family reasons, they’re seeking reassurance you can do the job. 

This is your chance to demonstrate your professional honesty. Make sure answers don’t come across as ‘confessional’ but focus on the confidently reassuring the employer you’re ready, motivated and committed to take on the job at hand. 

3. Put a professional spin on it 

Think about any transferable skills you may have developed. If you took time out following a redundancy to travel, you could share what you’ve learnt and how travelling has helped you improve as a professional (though time management, organisation or adaptability for example). 

If you were let go, make sure you don’t bad-mouth your last employer. Stay positive and focus on what you’ve gained from the experience, not what you’ve lost. 

4. Don’t panic 

Remember: the employer isn’t seeking to catch you out, they’re just curious. Don’t get defensive or anxious if asked about a gap on your resume.

Bring the focus back to why you’re in the room and what makes you the ideal candidate. You don’t have to go into in-depth detail during the interview if the gap was for personal reasons. Advise the employer you took time out for personal/family reasons and it allowed you to refocus on what you’re looking for now in your career. Then launch into how that led you to apply for the job you’re interviewing for and the unique skills you have for the role. 

Speaking as someone who’s sat on interview panels numerous times and observed how candidates responded to being asked about employment gaps, I can assure you it’s those who don’t treat the gap as an ‘issue’ that reassures all of us in the room that it isn’t. 

9 Tips for Choosing the Right Professional Referees
November 5, 2020
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By Helen Green 

Referees are key to job search success. In a competitive job market adversely impacted by COVID-19, it pays to ensure the referees you’re putting forward are the most appropriate for the job you are applying for.

Be strategic when putting forward someone to speak about your work, achievements, skills, and cultural fit for the job you are in the running for. Here are just a few tips that may help. 

 1. Choose your referees carefully  

Referees need to know your character and your work contributions. How well do they know you? Your referees should be able to speak about your achievements, strengths, and areas in which you may need further developing — in the context of their work relationship with you. If they cannot speak about these adequately, the referee phone call may become uncomfortable for them, which ultimately reflects poorly on you as the candidate. 

When putting forward a former manager, you should be very confident they would respond positively to the question ‘would you rehire this person?’ If you have any concerns about this, think carefully about asking them to be a referee. 

2. Compiling your referee list 

Aim for at least three people who might be able to support your job application. This helps you match the referee to the job and avoids over-reliance on the same person, which can be challenging if you are on the shortlist for several positions. Some recruiters now want to speak to your referees before starting the recruiting process, which is a practice proving difficult for many candidates and their well-meaning referees. Referee fatigue is real. 

3. Other people you could consider as a referee 

The challenge is made more difficult for young people with limited work experience, those who have lost contact with their former referees or their referees are long retired, people who have been out of the workforce for an extended period, the self-employed, or those whose last job/relationship with their manager did not end well. Think broadly.  

Some of the following suggestions may work for you: 

  • Current supervisor (if appropriate)
  • Former supervisor with current employer or previous employer
  • Manager of an adjoining internal division who knows your work well
  • Long-standing former client(s) or external stakeholder you maintained a strong relationship with and provided a service relevant to the job you are applying for
  • Person you mentored or managed who really benefited from your leadership
  • Former colleague with whom you worked closely who has now been promoted internally or externally
  • Colleague in another section of your company who you helped/provided specialist advice to on several occasions, resulting in a specific outcome
  • Chair of a committee or internal working group you contributed to substantially
  • Representative of an organisation you volunteered with who knows you well
  • Chair of the school council when you were an active parent representative
  • Sporting coach, teacher, academic, trainer – particularly for young job candidates

4. Match the referee to the job 

This is important. Consider the key selection criteria for the job and the organisation’s profile. A recent client was shortlisted for a position as a senior client relationship manager. She included a supervisor and we discussed the possibility of adding a former long-term client she had collaborated closely with on a key project, to give his perspective as a client. He was delighted to help — this impressed the recruiter and she was successful. 

5. Is your most senior referee essential? 

Often, though not always. There is little point listing the company CEO, as opposed to your supervisor, unless they are briefed appropriately and it is clear they know you and your work. Putting forward both is ideal, as they can offer different perspectives. 

Context matters too. If you are a candidate for a senior leadership role, consider putting forward someone you have managed or professionally mentored as a referee, as evidence of your leadership style. 

6. Communication is key 

Maintain contact with your referees and brief them. Apart from reflecting poorly on you, you cannot expect your referee to do a good job selling you if they have not heard from you in years and have no idea what job you have applied for. Make sure to reconnect and aim to keep your referees as current and relevant as possible. 

Some suggestions: 

  • Provide your referee with an updated copy of your CV, highlighting anything important.
  • Brief them about the job you have been shortlisted for and why you have applied. Do not assume they will know why you are changing careers or jobs.
  • Remind them of your key contributions during the time you worked or volunteered together – especially as they relate to the job you are applying for.
  • Update them about anything significant that may have happened since you worked together; e.g. if you won an award, worked on a high-profile project, were absent from the workforce for several years.

7. Avoid listing referees on your CV 

It is widely understood that candidates will need to put forward referees, so it’s unnecessary to include them. It can also be counterproductive, as a recruiter may call your referees at any time during the recruitment process before you can brief them about the job. Better that you control the selection of your referees and put forward their contact details when requested. Of course, if you have a very high-profile and relevant referee you would love to flag on your CV, perhaps include a brief testimonial from them on page one of your CV. 

8. Make sure contact details for your referees are up to date 

Providing the wrong contact details or outdated information about your referee’s current position is a red flag for hiring managers. Ask your referees how they would like to be contacted and the best time to contact them saves time for the recruiter and makes you look efficient. 

9. If you left your last job on difficult terms 

This can be tricky. If asked, be honest, positive and provide alternatives. Most people have experienced a situation where, for various reasons, a working relationship does not work. A client had worked for an organisation for several years, and for the previous 12 months experienced a difficult working relationship with his line supervisor, who was new to supervising. His position was made redundant. Short-listed for a role, he had been asked for the contact details of his most recent supervisor. We discussed how best to present an appropriate and honest explanation as to why his former supervisor and a senior manager from another division would be able to provide more substantive information relevant to the position he was in consideration for. He was successful. 

Finally 

Check your referees are happy to remain on your list — this is crucial. Most importantly, thank them for their time and belief in you. 

Helen is a qualified careers practitioner and director of Career Confident in Melbourne. Previously, Helen worked in senior education and career program management roles, primarily at the University of Melbourne.

YOU can read the original version of this article here.

Making the Shift to Online Career Coaching
June 29, 2020
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Published by the Australian Careers Service.

By Karen Lomas 

Many of us have been forced to shift from long-utilised methods of in-person career coaching to new systems of delivery and service. We’ve all had to adapt as quickly as possible to school closures and social distancing while continuing to support our students and clients. Making the shift to online career coaching has been key. 

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I have been utilising online platforms for quite some time; however, COVID-19 has meant a shift away from anything delivered face-to-face. Here is my personal reflection on this period of churn. 

The initial slow-down 

For me, COVID-19 lock-down policies resulted, for a short while, in an almost total suspension of work. In particular, revenue for March dived in comparison to revenue for March 2019. In addition to being bed-bound with illness for a five days, a project I was working on was suspended. 

Another issue was that families lost income, as some were either furloughed on reduced pay, or laid off. The JobSeeker and JobKeeper schemes had not yet come into play. I felt the need to offer some discounts and it felt good to be able to do this. Then I waited and things picked up. Sometimes there’s nothing else for it but to be patient.  

Changing my business model 

I went from running a career office that clients attended in person, to an all-online careers service. This shift meant marketing the new provision of career coaching via my website and on social media. This costs money because I have to pay for back end support on my website.

Once I mastered Zoom, I had to learn how to use Webex quickly, then keep on top of the deluge of information coming from Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre, Career Development Association of Australia, Careers Industry Council of Australia, Careers Education Association of Victoria, tertiary providers, my Careers Group and from virtual careers expo organisers. It was super intense for a while. 

I now use both of those Webex and Zoom platforms and lock my meetings, but do not take recordings. I did this upon the advice of CICA. In a discussion with my Careers Networking Group I realised that schools have different policies, so I was anxious about the fact that while school-based career practitioners had policies that protected them, I had to abide by a different set of rules. I have to rely on my handwritten notes and the interview summary that I share with my clients. For sure, I have insurance policies and the backing of my professional associations.  

In my private practice regarding counselling with children, I always obtained written permission from parents to counsel their child, whether it be online or in-person. If a child is happy for their parent to be present during their coaching session, I accommodate this. The preamble is a little longer with online counselling — the assurances around the session not being recorded, and that when I look away it’s because I’m taking notes ( not because I’m tickling the cat)! 

Challenges my clients are facing 

The language that I was hearing and reading from parents and students was challenging. Many admitted they weren’t coping, and there were parents who said their Year 12 child was thinking of dropping out of school. When asked how they were doing, clients were increasingly circling the word ‘anxious’. 

Some students and young adults do not wish to turn on their screen during sessions, therefore I cannot look for clues from their body language. Then again, there is the potential for the disinhibition effect — the potential benefit of distance, or the barrier created by the screen, and with respect to email and texting, the delay. Students and young adults are indeed divulging, so then it’s a case of listening actively and checking that they are, in fact okay.  

Challenges I’m facing 

Along with the above, there’s an increasing demand for services — and the fact that I don’t have any bells ringing to tell me that it’s lunchtime or time to knock off.  

With a new way of working, we have to protect ourselves from burn-out. I am indeed feeling tired and on one Friday, about a month ago, I was still at my desk at 7pm. That was not an easy day for me, as three students did not seem too good. I had to tell myself that something, just a smile, some words of encouragement will have helped them.  

An overall success 

Shifting to online career coaching has worked and this is gratifying. However, it has required a process of adjustment over which I have had very little control. When I set up my business, I was calling the shots. This year I, like all of us, have been forced to adjust my work in the face of what felt like what I might describe as ‘organised chaos’. It takes me back to a time early in my career when I was working in London and having to run a business despite IRA bomb scares and actual bombings. I recall my Assistant Manager saying on one such day, ‘Well, it’s character-building’. We had to laugh.

Karen  is a career coach specialising in early career exploration with school-aged students.  

International: The best Australian Universities to Study Health Services and Support

A career in health services and support is a rewarding experience as it makes a big difference in people’s lives.

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Whether it’s a position as a dental assistant, anaesthetist or carer, there are plenty of job opportunities in health services, as it’s one of the fastest-growing industries.

The Good Universities Guide rankings look at Australian universities’ specific strengths, offering insight to support and guide decision-making when choosing a university. View the rankings in terms of how each university performs overall, or you can narrow down by field of study and state.

We looked at which universities with undergraduate health services and support degrees performed best in full time employment, teaching quality and graduate salary.

Full Time Employment

This rating compares the employment rates of graduates at different universities. It looks at the proportion of graduates who were employed full time four months after completing a course. UNSW Sydney ranked highest, achieving a full score of 100%, while University of Tasmania scored 87.10%. CQUniversity placed third in this rating with 84.50%.

Teaching Quality

This rating looks at the proportion of students who were satisfied with the quality of teaching they experienced. It’s based on students’ ratings of their overall educational experience and the quality of teaching they received. Australian National University ranked highest with 100%. Following closely behind, Bond University placed second with 97.60%.

Graduate Salary

This rating compares the median salary of graduates from different universities. University of Tasmania takes the top spot with their graduates earning a median salary of $82,000, while UNSW Sydney followed with $75,000.

View all 2020 rankings for nursing health services and support by The Good Universities Guide here — filter by level to view both undergraduate and postgraduate ratings.

Australian Debate: Is it Time to End Unpaid Internships?
March 1, 2019
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The following International article was written by the Australian Careers Service and raises the issue of unpaid Internships and if they are alogo positive or negative way of helping students develop the skill and knowledge required for their chosen career.

In December 2018, the New South Wales Labor party, lead by Michael Daley, announced plans to scrap ‘exploitative’ unpaid internships if they win the 2019 state election.

This proposal reignited debate around what has been a long-standing issue within the labour market, drawing on the ethical and moral dilemmas that often accompany discussions about unpaid internships.

Read more