4 Simple Steps to Explaining “Gaps” on your Résumé

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There is no “right way” to explain a gap between positions on your résumé. It’s a roll-of-the-dice how an employer perceives that gap when they first see your résumé, and is as likely to be scrutinized and judged when they ask you about it in an interview. The key to surviving this “red flag” is keeping your answer honest, positive, and without reason for further discussion – which is ultimately more scrutiny.

1.  Start with a skills-based functional résumé!

These résumés can’t hide a gap, but they do lead with pertinent skills before revealing when and where you have worked.  The intent is to win the heart and mind of an employer by directly answering why the employer should hire you within the first half of the first page. With the emphasis on what you know and what you’ve done, the hope is that this is where your interview is focused. However, be prepared to deal with the gap in the interview.

2.  Positive and complementary activities between positions

Don’t pretend to be Superman undertaking Superman things unless you actually did save the world. Beware trying to over-compensate with larger-than-life illustrations as it may not convince the interviewer. Simple and real examples (if they are in fact real) are the easiest way to explain how you’ve been keeping busy while unemployed. Training and certifications are best. Volunteer initiatives or projects in the arts are great. Being a “Home Coordinator” is good. Travel is cool, too!

3.  If you’ve moved or recently immigrated, then welcome! (And use this to your advantage).

This is the best-case scenario. If you’ve relocated then use that. Complement it with positive experiences in your new location, the energy you’ve put into understanding and adapting to the local labour market, and your enthusiasm to be where you are now.

4.  Honesty with heroic doses of genuine sincerity

Some have used humour and some have simply said nothing, and the latter is as bad as chattering at great length on any topic not relevant to the position you’re applying for. If you must indicate the reason you were let go, then do so in the most positive way. This could entail referring to changes to the labour market and company restructuring; and while these aren’t necessarily positive, they can be communicated in a tone that demonstrates your genuine appreciation for your previous role and employer.

Keep your answer short and DO NOT provide any additional information that might raise suspicion from the employer. This leads to additional questions – none of which will be focused on what you could do for that company. Add a sincere “I’ve been actively job searching, and in a labour market as competitive as ours is, I trust you’ll understand why I’m so excited to be meeting with you today.”

Jason Douglas Smith is a Training Application Coordinator with The Career Foundation, and has successfully directed clients in not only developing personalized job search strategy plans, but in circumnavigating the rigorous demands of applications for Provincially funded retraining. When not working, this self-professed Futurist can often be found reading, writing, and barbecuing in his native Burlington.   

The ‘Power Stance’ (And What to Wear in That Stance)

Some of The Career Foundation's very own staff show off their 'Power Stance'.
Some of The Career Foundation’s very own staff show off their ‘Power Stance’.

Outside of Martial Arts and the Sears Catalogue, a “Power Stance” can be a great tool for a job seeker. It is both a method of warming up before an interview by increasing your self-confidence and a way to express and maintain that confidence during an interview. It’s also great for sales people, public speakers, and superheroes.

While sitting, keep your back straight with arms either folded or with your arms at your sides with hands on hips. Legs can be angled in any direction so long and your head is aimed at the central audience. Add a bit of style if your whole body is aimed at the audience and cross a leg – but do so in a way that suggests you have the power. Project confidence with an open posture. To avoid projecting entitlement or arrogance, add a smile. Be serious if you must, but tilt your head ever so slightly so as to add a sense of fluid humanity – and always dress the right way!

What to Wear (For Men): 

Professional male holding out hand for a handshake

The golden rule is that dressing conservatively with formal attire is an approach that never loses. Always dress a little bit better than you might while working in the position you’re applying for. See the graphic below!

How to Dress for a Job Interview infographic

What to Wear (For Women): 

Women have a little bit more leeway when it comes to clothing and style options for interviews. Skirts, dresses, pant suits, blazers, heels, flats – there’s a plethora of choices to navigate, so as a woman dressing yourself for a job interview tends to be overwhelming. Here are some helpful hints to get you ready for the big interview.

Business casual attire versus professional attire for women

As with men, conservative and formal is usually the way to go. Wondering if something is appropriate to wear to an interview? Think “high school dress code” – no exposed shoulders, no short skirts, no midriff (please).

If you wear makeup or nail polish, ensure you go for a poised and natural look. Dress in a soft, neutral colour palette. You may want to add one coloured piece to your outfit, to make it pop and ensure the interviewer remembers you. Keep any accessories simple and understated.

Our Summery Summary:

As summer approaches and the hiring season ramps up, knowing what to wear to your interview is vital. Make sure you wear temperature-appropriate clothing (AKA, avoid wool suits in the summertime) and remember to keep it professional and conservative.

We know it’s 2017 and our society is a lot more tolerant and encouraging of individuality than it once was, but you may want to remove any facial piercings and other loud jewellery as well as cover any visible tattoos for your interview. You don’t want to draw focus away from your qualifications and experience, and interviewers can find such things distracting. It’s good to give off a neutral appearance until you can get a sense of the company’s corporate culture.

On top of developing a strong power stance, it may be wise to develop a power ensemble: your go-to outfit for a successful interview. Above all else, make sure you wear something you’re comfortable in. Comfort is the key to confidence and confidence is the key to nailing your interview!

Put your ‘Power Stance’ to the test by entering our #MyPotential2017 Instagram Contest! It’s super easy, and you could win a $100 Pre-paid Gift Card! Click here for full details.

This blog post was produced and contributed by Kaily Schell and Jason D. Smith of The Career Foundation. 


T.M. Lewin, based in the U.K., also shared with us an informative infographic to help you crack the office dress code. Check it out below!

What to Wear to Work infographic by T.M. Lewin

5 Benefits of Seasonal Contracts

Contract

With hiring season around the corner, the job market is booming with temporary and seasonal opportunities (particularly in manufacturing and production positions). Here at The Career Foundation, we’ve seen an ever-growing number of temporary positions cropping up as we roll into spring. In light of this, we decided it might be time to evaluate the many benefits of temporary and seasonal employment opportunities.

Let’s start with the most obvious benefit of seasonal contracts: The income.
Temp assignments can provide a good source of supplementary income alongside your primary job, or they can simply provide income while you search for opportunities more in line with your career goals. Either way, money is never a bad thing.

Temporary contracts can allow you to “test drive” a position without having to make any long-term commitments.
Perhaps you were thinking a certain field or job is right for you, but you wanted to try it out before committing to a full time, permanent position. If this is the case, a seasonal contract might be the right fit for you.

So, your test drive went well and you’d be interested in a longer-term commitment to the company?  You have a shot!
Well, consider it a good thing that a lot of companies offer temp-to-perm opportunities to their successful seasonal employees. In many cases, companies will offer permanent positions to employees who stood out (positively) during a seasonal contract. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re the only one doing a little test-driving – always be sure to go that “extra mile” so employers will want to keep you just as much as you want to stay!

Seasonal contracts can also be a good opportunity to update your skill set, while preventing any questionable gaps from popping up in your resume.
Even if the seasonal opportunity isn’t your ideal, more work experience ultimately leads to a robust resumé and – so long as you’re not crowding it with an abundance of three-month stints – this can be beneficial to your future job search endeavours. If you find you have way too many short-term jobs listed on your resumé, bulk them strategically under a separate “Freelance” or “Contract Work” section.

Temporary contracts give you an opportunity to network and make new contacts. Developing a broad range of professional contacts can be very important, so even in a temporary contract it’s important to conduct yourself in a professional and friendly manner. You never know when you might need someone to be a reference – or if you’re going to have to work with someone again. Thus, it’s always good to leave a positive impression, even if your working relationship is a short one.

Next time you’re considering passing up a job opportunity due to its seasonal nature, you might want to reconsider. Seasonal contracts can have all the perks of permanent positions (including good pay rates and sometimes even benefits packages – ooh la-la!), as well as some benefits that you just don’t get from a permanent gig. So don’t shy away from giving some of those seasonal roles you glazed over a second gander.

Kaily Schell is an Office Administrator and Customer Service Specialist with The Career Foundation. When she’s not streamlining agency records or supporting just about all of the foundation’s committees, she can be found nibbling rice cakes at her desk or chasing her colleagues for last-minute reports.

4 Funny (But Actually Un-Funny) Ways You Are Self-Sabotaging Your Job Search

Going Nowhere Slowly
Be sure you’re not racing against your own good efforts in your job search… Or in life!

Face it: Everyone, including you, makes a few common blunders when first starting a job search. But when the hunt extends beyond the six-month mark and you haven’t gotten so much as a “Thank you for applying” e-mail, something must be awry – right? Let’s take a look at a few ways you could be unintentionally sabotaging your job search (at least, let’s hope it’s unintentional!)

1.) Using multiple names

  • You have a nickname that everyone else in your home uses, but sadly they never use or simply don’t remember your actual name. “Oh, are you looking for Sleazy Sue?” your brother asks a potential employer over the phone… “Phone’s for you, sis.”
  • Your resumé uses your middle name first, but your cover letter is signed with your legal first name. How do you spell “confusion?”
  • Your e-mail address contains no name whatsoever, and you have used two different spellings for your family name between your cover letter and resumé. This works against you because it makes you look disorganized. It can also make things complicated for employers who may not know whether to refer to a candidate as Eddie, Kurt or Chris, for example (I’m looking at you, Edward Christopher Kurtswood).
  • Advice: Use a first and last name only. Try to integrate them both into your e-mail address and be sure to always spell your full name the same way. (You’d be surprised the number of times I’ve seen this simple task go sour!) Use that name consistently on everything related to your job search.

2.) Your voicemail message is ……….. 

Answering machines really took flight in the late 1980s, and one would think they are fairly easy to use today given the technological advancements we’ve had since Back to the Future was released. However, voicemail messages can actually be the bane of your job search. For job search purposes you need a simple, short, clear and friendly voicemail message with your name in it. Many companies – banks in particular – have privacy policies that forbid them from leaving messages when the person’s name is not indicated in the voicemail greeting.

Also, be sure your message isn’t the dreaded “dead air” … No one likes an awkward silence. Finally, remove any music, movie references, puns/idioms and strange sounds. The employer will question what the heck is going on if they hear mysterious ruffling noises or the echoes of clanging pots and pans.

  • Advice 1: Keep it simple. “Hi, you’ve reached the voicemail of Fred Hale! Please leave a message and I will return your call shortly. Thank you, and have a great day!” Seriously – how hard was that?
  • Advice 2: When calling an employer or business, prepare a message in advance should you be re-directed to an employer’s voicemail. Employers absolutely detest (as most people do) watching the same number call repeatedly while not leaving a message. Either the employer is unable or unwilling to answer at the time. In either case, you present yourself as annoying and unprofessional. This hurts your chances of success.
  • Advice 3: Listen to your messages as soon as possible and ensure your voicemail is not full; otherwise employers cannot leave a message and may be too busy to call back. Listen to the message in full before you call that number back. You’ll look silly if you call a company with 200+ employees and simply say, “Someone from there called me.”

3.) Mislabeled file names / attached documents

When attaching your resumé and cover letter to an e-mail, follow the directions as specified in the posting. Be sure to include a short, professional introduction with the attachments. Use reference numbers and codes in the subject heading if asked. If the company wants your cover letter and resumé as a single attachment, combine them. If they do not ask for that, do not combine them.

In most cases, it’s best to save the file(s) as a pdf, unless otherwise indicated. Be aware that when a position is posted, employers can potentially receive hundreds of applications. You need to make their hiring process easier by following specific instructions.

  • Advice: Give each attachment (file) a clear name and do not send your resumé as “resume” or “my resume” or “new resume (2).” They should look like this: Fred Hale – Resume – Ikea or Fred Hale – Resume – Floor Associate. The same applies to cover letters, reference lists, and anything else that an employer is asking you to send: Fred Hale – Cover Letter – Ikea, et cetera.

4.) Incorrect contact information

A true story of a failed job search: A client, whose voicemail was full, (as in never emptied or deleted over a period of three months), also had a completely wrong e-mail address on her resumé. I would have liked to inform her of this, but I had no way of reaching her and my current position does not warrant my knocking on doors or using passenger pigeons. I’ll say it again: You need to make the hiring process easy for an employer. They will NOT knock on your door; nor will they spend three months trying to contact you.

  • Advice: Listen, reply, and then delete your voicemail messages. Check your e-mail address. Does it end in .org, .com, or .ca? Is your e-mail active? Is it professional and easy to read? Once you know all of these answers, you should be ready to proceed. Just be sure to check your e-mail account (including your Spam folder) a few times each day as some employers measure the time it takes for you to reply.

 

Jason Douglas Smith is a Training Application Coordinator with The Career Foundation, and has successfully directed clients in not only developing personalized job search strategy plans, but in circumnavigating the rigorous demands of applications for retraining for those in need of skills enhancement. When not doing this, he can often be found reading, writing and barbecuing in his native Burlington.   

 

Top 4 Job Search Apps to Use on the Go

Man using online tools and smartphone devices to do his job search

Are you on the hunt for that perfect job but sometimes life gets in the way? Well, grab that smartphone, because thanks to mobile apps, finding your dream job has never been easier! Here are four job search apps that are guaranteed to give you that competitive advantage, allowing you to take your search on the go and apply for jobs anytime, anywhere.

1.) Indeed

Indeed is a great app for an active job seeker because it’s so straightforward. You can filter the results by using keywords or narrow your search based on location, salary expectation and industry. Indeed also allows you to save jobs to apply for later (in case you don’t have your resumé handy), or save your job search documents to your Indeed account, allowing you to apply instantly. With the added ability to set up email alerts, you can receive specific notifications straight to your inbox, never missing out on an opportunity!

2.) Jobaware

Think of Jobaware as a one-stop shop for your job searching needs, allowing you to do all stages of the application process from your mobile device. This includes searching job listings near you, tracking the progress of your applications, and getting resumé-building and other helpful tips along the way. The app also helps job seekers find potential job referrals by syncing with their contact lists and searching for job openings at their contacts’ companies.

3.) LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool for job seekers, allowing you to stay connected with coworkers, build new connections with recruiters and other professionals, and see if the company you want to work for is hiring. By setting up a professional profile, you can easily search open positions and apply directly in-app. Recruiters may also approach you with potential opportunities. Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, LinkedIn remains an excellent tool to keep you up to date with your network and informed on relevant trends tailored to your industry.

4.) Glassdoor

Glassdoor is a resourceful app that allows the job seeker to research company salaries, search for jobs, and get the inside scoop on companies through reviews written by employees. If used correctly, Glassdoor allows you to sift through potential interview questions commonly asked by potential employers or for particular jobs, as well as information on company procedures and work culture.

With these helpful tips at your disposal, you will be a well-versed candidate ready to impress employers.

3 Reasons I’ve Loved Working in the Skilled Trades

morgan

If you have a mental image when you see the word “arborist”, it’s probably not a mental image of me. For those who don’t know, an arborist is a skilled tradesperson who specializes in cultivating and managing trees and woody plants – sort of like a specialized lumberjack.  I’m 5’7”, I’m smallish by most standards, and I couldn’t grow a beard to save my life, so archetypal lumberjack I am not.  I have ended up with a career in the skilled trades, however, and would recommend anyone who likes working with their hands to give the skilled trades a shot.

The major impetus for me happened in fall 2012, when I spotted an ad for The Career Foundation’s Arborist Pre-Apprenticeship program, to which I applied for, was accepted and successfully completed. When the General Carpenter Pre-Apprenticeship program at The Career Foundation started in early 2016, I encouraged my brother, Will, to apply, and neither of us have looked back.

What has working in the trades done for me?

1) CONFIDENCE. Learning to safely use, maintain, and repair a chainsaw changed me, and
not just because it’s one of the coolest power tools out there.  Before I got into the trades, I’d probably held a drill once or twice, hammered a few nails, and would have looked for someone else to do anything more involved than putting together Ikea furniture.  The first few dozen times I used a chainsaw, the uncertainty of whether I’d be able to get the thing to start put a knot in my stomach.

lindsey
Hangin’ out: A typical day in the life.

Fast forward a few years, and I’ve been in more situations than I can count where I had the most training and experience with tools on a job site, and was best prepared to tackle a job safely, or troubleshoot a problem effectively.  Beyond the obvious practical applications of having gained this level of skill, it also made me realize that, just because something is an enormous challenge at first, doesn’t mean I can’t overcome and eventually master it.  That feeling is infinitely transferable to other tools, to sports, to hobbies, and to challenges at work and in life.

2) EMPOWERMENT. With a couple major exceptions, most of the skilled trades have traditionally been male dominated. (Kudos to chefs and hairdressers!)  Today, the world is changing.  Every day I know that by showing up for work and being a professional in my field, I am setting an example: for my bosses and coworkers, for other women, for other skilled trades companies, for clients, for the public.

I really believe that tapping a broader pool of talent is beneficial: for individuals faced with a wider range of options, for industry, and for society.  Working in a male-dominated field as a woman certainly has its challenges, but I do so with the knowledge that I’m helping to pave the way for non-traditional demographics, including women, people of colour, and LGBT+ people, to take a shot at this really rewarding career.

stephcuts

3) RESULTS. Working in the trades, there is never any question at the end of the day as to what you’ve accomplished.  Your achievement is right in front of you, whether it be a tree pruned, a section framed, or a pipe laid.  As a tradesperson, you have made a measurable and tangible contribution to society by the end of every day at work.  In many cases, it will be a contribution that you’ll be able to physically show your children and grandchildren.

Kate Raycraft currently works as Pre-Apprenticeship Project Assistant with the General Carpentry Pre-Apprenticeship program at The Career Foundation’s Hamilton office. For anyone interested in our General Carpentry Pre-Apprenticeship program, please visit our website at: https://careerfoundation.com/index.php/component/content/article/23-tcf-modules/157-general-carpenter-pre-apprenticeship-program-for-youth

3 Things GAME OF THRONES Can Teach You About Surviving and Thriving In Canada’s Modern Labour Market

game_of_thrones_fortress
The Fortress of Klis, situated near Split, Croatia. The medieval fortress has regularly been used as a location for filming the HBO series, The Game of Thrones. Photo credit: Pixaby

If you’ve ever watched HBO’s Game of Thrones then you will understand. If you’ve never seen it, you know people who have – and that’s most likely everyone else. If you watch one episode, you’ll find yourself clamouring to watch the rest. For good reason, this fantasy-based drama of power struggles, war, love, loyalty, and family accord resonate with historians for its depiction of war as being painfully deliberate and without a conscience; meaning that even the most beloved character is never guaranteed to stay in their position or even return at all. Despite being in the fantasy genre, Game of Thrones has a number of allegories relevant to the modern Canadian labour market. With good reason both those who are employed and those who a seeking employment may want to heed the warnings this fantasy offers.

(1) The Only Person Who Will Protect You Is You

In today’s labour market you can depend on others for support, but not for progress. Canada’s Employment Insurance is there and both Employment Ontario and Service Canada have invested huge amounts of capital to ensure that we live in a highly productive and educated workforce. However, it’s not the 1950s and 1960s, opportunities and safeguards are plentiful, but offers are not. The onus is entirely on you to develop and maintain your career.

In Game of Thrones, Jon Snow, Petyr Baelish, and Tyrion Lannister are three characters that in some ways couldn’t be more different from each other. They are born into privilege yes- but in this series that means nothing. Jon is loved by his family, but not recognized by his them. Petyr is a smug and morally repugnant ‘businessmen’. And Tyrion is the heart and soul and brain of a dysfunctional family that is violent and power mad. What these three have in common is their willingness to look after themselves and seize opportunity before others even know that it is there. The parallels with career growth and the attribute towards one’s willingness to look after one’s self can be encapsulated in a term called Employment Retention.

Keeping one’s position and having that position develop is the result of any number of factors, but most likely a combination; awareness of these factors is Employment Retention. From growth in a particular sector to understanding how differing sectors of the labour market are changing and evolving to simply understanding how to behave in particular professional settings are all key. The real trick is doing this in a manner that is proactive enough to keep your head afloat. While a beloved character of the first season, Lord Eddard Stark (played by Sean Bean), stayed true to his beliefs but was unable to adapt his role to changing times, and as such, could neither keep his position nor his head afloat.

(2) Your Current or Highest-Paid Position Won’t Last Forever

For the immediate future, “Job Churn” is here to stay. According to a Toronto Star report from Saturday October 22, Canadians should get used to so-called “job churn” — short-term employment and a number of career changes in a person’s life. And this isn’t just an editorial trying to be sensational; it’s come directly from Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Meaning that as productive working members of society we need to become accustom to short-term employment and a number of career changes; and not always in an order of ascending prominence either.

If Game of Thrones has a lesson for us here it’s that power and position is fleeting, and those who survive are those most willing to reinvent themselves. Tyrion and Jamie Lannister are two characters that demonstrate this without a doubt. These siblings thrived as they worked under their sister’s husband who was the king. When the king passed, his eldest teenage son, Joffrey, took control and then began running the entire kingdom like a sulky sadistic brat. As such, both Jamie and Tyrion were forced to endure unwarranted criticism and solve bureaucratic issues with a head of state that was largely too immature to fix the problems he himself was mostly causing. Without giving too many plot details away (a huge no-no in the world of Game of Thrones), both characters did reinvent themselves each time misfortune robbed them of their titles. In all of the situations, neither started at the top of their game, but in their reinvention, quickly worked to understand and take control of the changes around them.

It is change, particularly of a longstanding industry sector, that is hard on all. The closing of Stelco and its application for bankruptcy in 2007 and the 1990 economic meltdown of Dofasco both in Hamilton, Ontario hurt that city badly. The immergence of online file sharing nearly crippled the music industry when it bloomed in the late 1990s. However, like Jamie and Tyrion Lannister, both the City of Hamilton and the music industry have since re-emerged and reinvented themselves. Part of this was the courage to do things differently and part of it was the inevitably of change. There was simply no other choice.

(3) Winter Is Coming – We Have No Choice But To Adapt

Winter is coming, both literally and metaphorically, and this is not an option. If winter were a Game of Thrones allegory for the Canadian Labour Market, then winter is change, and as fearful as the characters in Games of Thrones are of winter, it would seem the majority of us in the labour market today, are as fearful of the changes to it.

In Game of Thrones part of the terrifying appeal of winter is the unknown of the ‘long dark’. The irony would be that those who embrace change and the unknown are in fact the most successful in their careers. If we look to “job churn” — short-term employment and a number of career changes in a person’s life, as the expectation for the immediate future, then we need to govern our career goals and planning accordingly- and not spend any time lamenting the past AND NOT being rigidly dogmatic in any nostalgic way. The economy could turn back to the powerhouse heydays of the 1950s and 1960s or even further back to the complete stagnation and reversal of the 1930s. The constant is change, and with that comes ever more the chance to grow and develop, so long as you are willing to embrace that change and roll with it in a proactive manner.

“You know nothing, Jon Snow”, a line told to Jon Snow by various characters in various settings. It would seem that well written stories are not without a sense of humour and a good sense of humour would not be complete without a strong understanding of irony. Jon Snow, the character most able to deal with change and lead others in ways that had not been tried before, was accused of not knowing anything. This was probably true for the most part. He was actually stabbed in the back, and more than once. However, his leadership and his career spoke NOT to his ability to know the future, but how well he chose to adapt to it.

Written By Jason D. Smith

(Who has thrived in various labour markets despite not watching beyond Games of Thrones Season 5)