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If you’re underemployed or long-term unemployed, writing a resume that demonstrates your value as an employee can present real challenges. Let’s face it: your recent career path has been less a clear trajectory than a meandering trail. But while it may be daunting, it’s not impossible to develop a resume that merits an interview during which you can present your career experience and success convincingly.

  1. DO reflect on your job history. Only by being brutally honest with yourself, can you understand the reasons for your periods of unemployment or underemployment and be prepared to discuss them with a potential employer. Were these sidelines performance-based, a result of personal or family situations, or were they completely beyond your control – a general lay-off, or a company relocation or closing?
  2. DON’T mislead the recruiting officer by omitting employment dates from your resume, or by developing a “functional” resume – one that focuses on your abilities and skills, with only an ending acknowledgement of your actual work history. An experienced HR professional will recognize this tactic instantly and look for the very information you’re trying to underplay. There are times when a functional resume makes sense, such as for the individual who is working toward a career change and seeking to highlight skills that translate to a different field. But unless that describes your situation, stick to a more traditional reverse chronological style.
  3. DO, if you’re underemployed, consider an opening section that describes “Relevant Experience,” and lists your underemployment periods under “Other Experience.” As before, though, do include dates, employers and job titles for all positions in both categories.
  4. DON’T whether on your resume, in interviews or at networking events, rush in to volunteer what you consider negative information. It’s not up to you to broadcast details that detract from your worth in the workplace.
  5. DO remember the cardinal rule: DO NOT lie. Don’t misstate anything on your resume, from your education or certifications, to a job title or the dates of your employment. If a hiring manager asks in an interview about gaps or underemployment, give a straightforward, honest response. And here’s where you need to go back to #1, above. Careful advanced personal reflection on any periods of unemployment or underemployment will give you the ability to comfortably answer those kinds of questions intelligently and appropriately. If you have to share anything that may be perceived as negative (for example, being fired from a job), take any responsibility for your part, discuss what you learned from the experience, and explain how you would handle a similar situation differently now.

Employ Up helps underemployed and long-term unemployed individuals find a workable path to re-employment in a successful and rewarding career. All of the services Employ Up and its employer and training and education partners provide, from initial assessment to career coaching, from updating skills to job readiness, are free to residents of Indianapolis and the surrounding communities. If you haven’t already, take the first by signing up here!


By Brian Lawrence
Employ Up Career Prep Trainer