Employment Advice For Persons With Developmental Disabilities
I’m a job seeker with a developmental disability. My job coach has been trying to arrange job interviews for me but the gap in my resume and work experience has been an issue with employers. I`ve been in and out of the workforce over the past 10 years due to personal reasons. Now I really need a job for financial reasons and my dignity. How do I explain this gap in my work history to prospective employers in my job search?
Signed: Returning to work
Let’s start with your resume. According to some employers that I have approached for feedback on this issue, if your gap covers two or more calendar years, you need to explain this absence from the workforce. Kim Isaacs’ blog at https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/resume-dilemma-employment-gaps offers some helpful suggestions combined with my observations as a frontline job developer/job coach:
- Consider all of your related work experiences and skills. Your volunteering, community activities, and any help that you have offered at home or with friends is important for your resume. For example, if you volunteered at your school, provide details of what you did in your resume and social media profiles. This experience is valid. You can create a section in your resume entitled “Professional Experience”, “Other Experience”, “Relevant Professional Experience” with the dates. Add your non-employment related experiences and skills in this section. I`ve seen resumes with these sections as well: “Full-Time Parent”, “Home Management”, “Family Management”, and “Family Financial Management”. As Isaacs cautions, you don’t have to apologize for this.
- Keep up to date. Show how you are active and keep current in your field. If it`s relevant to your employment goal, going back to school or attending a training course or workshop is valid experience for your resume. For example, you can take a computer course or attend workshops at your local library and employment centre. Add this training even if it’s a one day workshop. Learning is learning.
- Volunteering (or continue volunteering). It is always a great idea to continue volunteering in a position (if possible) or in an organization (if possible) that is related to your ultimate job goal. This is a great way to keep your resume and experience fresh as well as build your network. Add this experience in your social media profiles and resume right away. Target the ones who are hiring. You can see the job postings on www.charityvillage.com, www.workinginnonprofit.com and on their websites. You never know where this placement could lead.
- Build your network. Most jobs are found through contacts. Use social media and information interviews to meet professionals in your field. Attend as many social and work related events, workshops, conferences as possible. You can join groups on social media as well. Some job seekers whom I`ve worked with reconnect with old friends on Facebook who are working in your field.
- Research the labour market. You are in the same situation as a new graduate or newcomer to Canada in the sense that you too are looking to enter into the workforce. While you are applying for work and busy meeting people in your field, target companies where you would like to work, visit their websites, and analyze the job openings to learn as much as possible about the skills, experience and abilities that you will need to learn (and what you already have) for the positions to which you are applying.
To submit your questions and comments to this column in confidence, please email Joanna Samuels, Employment Resource Specialist at Reena.