The Resume: How to Cover an Unstable Work History

Several decades ago, it was common for people to work at one company for twenty or thirty years. In today’s gig economy, such long-term stability is rare. Yet most employers still see an unstable work history as a major red flag. It indicates to them that the applicant may be unfocused, uncommitted, or a problem employee of some sort.

If you have an unstable work history, how do you handle it on your resume, so that it doesn’t look like a red flag? The answer depends on your specific circumstances. Here are some ideas:

Problem: One large gap. There is a period of several years when you were not working.
Solution: Fill it in with something. Were you going back to school during that time? Doing volunteer work? Operating a small business or working freelance? Serving as a caretaker for your children or parents? All of these are activities that you can (and should!) put on a resume to explain away the gap. You want to show them that you were using your time productively, even if it was in a way that’s not directly relevant to your career field.
Example:
Tutor, Self-employed, Baton Rouge, LA                                                           August 2013 – May 2015
Tutored several middle- and high-school students in English grammar and literature.

Caretaker, Johnson Family, Lafayette, LA                                                              July 2008 – July 2013
Managed insurance relations and payments.
Coordinated medical care, including medications, therapy, and doctor appointments.

Problem: Several small gaps. There are a few gaps of six months or less in your work history.
Solution: Use only years of employment, not months. This strategy will cover any gaps which are less than a year in duration.
Example:
Sales Associate, Home Depot, Baton Rouge, LA                              December  2014 – February 2015
Rang up purchases and processed payments.
Assisted customers on sales floor.

Flooring Manager, Ace Hardware, Baton Rouge, LA                           November 2012 – January  2013
Supervised 3 sales associates.
Provided customers with expert knowledge of flooring products.

Problem: Multiple jobs at once. You have frequently held two or three jobs at a time, which means that there are a lot of jobs in your work history.
Solution: Delete some of the jobs. For each time period you need to cover, choose one job from your list – ideally, the most impressive job with the most relevant skills. Remove the others, and add the phrase “Additional work history available upon request” to the bottom of your work history.
Example:
Crew Leader, Burger King, Baton Rouge, LA                                     October 2015 – present
Supervise staff of 5; open store daily.

Cashier, Dollar Tree, Baton Rouge, LA                                                September 2014 – July 2016
Assisted customers and ran cash register.

Prep Cook, Chili’s, Baton Rouge, LA                                                   April 2012 – October 2015
Cooked meals to order in a fast-paced kitchen.

Additional work history available on request.

Problem: Staffing agency jobs. You’ve had several short-term jobs, with gaps between them, which you found though a staffing agency.
Solution: List the staffing agency as your employer. You can list more detailed information about the types of work you did and the companies you worked for in the bullet points of your job description. But by grouping it all together under the staffing agency, it looks much more stable.
Example:
Office Temp, Lofton Staffing, Baton Rouge, LA                                 June 2008 – March 2012
Worked a variety of short-term clerical jobs.
Locations included Neighbors Credit Union, Brown Dentistry, AllState Insurance, and GMP.
Performed data entry, filing, scanning, faxing, copying, and database management.

Problem: Short-term jobs. There are jobs in your work history which lasted less than a year.
Solution: Delete some of the jobs, and use only years of employment, not months. Ask yourself whether it’s helping you to include these short-term jobs. If you can delete them without removing crucial experience, and without leaving large/numerous gaps, then do so. If not, see if you can group them together (see next Solution).
Example:
LPN, Our Lady of the Lake, Baton Rouge, LA                                      October 2016 – present
Manage ward of 12 cardiac care patients.

Home Health Nurse, Senior Care Inc., Baton Rouge, LA                    January 2016 – April 2016
Provided sole medical care for elderly invalid.

LPN, Baton Rouge General, Baton Rouge, LA                                     August 2013 – July 2015
Performed triage and assisted doctors in busy ER.

Problem: Short-Term Contracts/Projects. This is especially common in such fields as construction, where you move from job to job whenever projects are completed. If you only have one or two positions like this on your resume, simply add “Contract” or “Seasonal” to your job title. But if you have several such positions, you’ll need a new approach.
Solution: Group similar jobs together under one title. Give this entry a title which covers the general type of work you did, then get into the specifics in the job description below that.
Example:
Carpenter/Painter, Baton Rouge, LA                                                              2013 – present
Performed industrial carpentry painting work for several local construction projects.
Worked with Turner Industries, CB&I, Brock Construction, and Broh Brothers.

Problem: None of the previous solutions worked. If you tried the tricks above, but are still not able to put together a resume that will impress hiring managers and hide your unstable work history, you may need to completely re-think the structure of your resume.
Solution: Use a functional resume. This strategy emphasizes your skills and qualifications while downplaying your chronological work history. The largest downside of the functional resume is that it can be very difficult to write. The good news is, the Career Center can help!
Example: We have two templates for functional resumes, as well as a previous blogpost about how to use a functional resume to cover an unstable work history.

If you would like some help with your resume, please visit the Career Center of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library at any time during our opening hours for free expert assistance.

Written by Lynnette Lee

Tech Talk: Why You Need Your Resume in MS Word (and how to convert it from PDF)

Patron: I need to update my resume. It’s in PDF format. How do I make changes?
Staff: I’m sorry but you can’t.

A conversation like this happens quite often in the Career Center. Many of our clients don’t realize that the choice of format in which they save their resume can affect their ability to make changes to the resume. Many computers – including the library’s computers – do not have the software necessary to edit PDF files. So, why do so many people use PDFs? And if your resume is PDF only, what can you do about it?

advantages and disadvantages of pdfs

One of the great advantages of having a PDF version of your resume is that it cannot be altered by another person or a computer program. Therefore, it can be a good idea to submit your resume as a PDF in an email or an online application, so that it will arrive with all of your formatting intact.

However, this feature of PDFs is a double-edged sword. No one else can make changes to your document – but neither can you. If you want to add a new position, or change your email address, or fix a typo, you will be out of luck with a PDF.

Therefore, we strongly urge you to save your resume (and cover letter, references, etc.) in an editable format such as Microsoft Word. You may also save each document as a PDF for online submission if you’d like, but you need a Microsoft Word copy so you can make changes.

My resume is pdf only. how do i fix that?

If it is not a scan, try this:

  • Convert it using Word. Word 2013 and 2016 are able to open a PDF and convert it to Word format. This is the most effective and hassle-free option. However, it will not work with a scan. It only works with documents that were created in MS Word but saved as PDFs.
  • Use Google Drive to convert it. Obviously, this one only works if you have a Google account. Upload the PDF to your Drive and open the file as a Google Doc. Then, in the menu bar, go to File -> Download as -> Microsoft Word (docx).  Again, this technique does not work with scans.
  • Use PDFtoWordThis website converts PDFs to Word documents and produced good results when we tested it. However, it will not work with a scan.

If it is a scan, try this:

  • Run it through Optical Character Recognition (OCR). OCR recognizes letters and words in your scanned file and turns them into text. Some websites can run an uploaded file through OCR and then convert it into a text file in MS Word. We had good results doing this through OnlineOCR, DocsZone, and PDFtoWordConverter. However, please be advised that quality is not guaranteed – sometimes, formatting is lost during the conversion process, particularly if your resume is highly formatted.
  • If all else fails, re-type it from scratch in MS Word. It takes time, but it will be worth it.

See Wikihow for more detailed instructions on converting PDFs to Word.

I don’t have microsoft office; what do i do?

You are welcome to use the library for this purpose; all of our branches have MS Word on our computers. Alternately, you can use a free application such as Libre Office, which is very similar to MS Office and compatible with Macs and Linux.

If you would like in-person help with writing or formatting your resume, come to the Career Center at the Goodwood Library where trained staff can assist you.

Written by Rick Wright

Book Review: SuperBetter

Have you ever encountered a difficulty, challenge, or trauma that was overwhelming to deal with? If you are human, chances are the answer is “yes”. In her book “SuperBetter,” Jane McGonigal offers a new, fresh, and, in most eyes, unusual approach to overcome such situations. She uses gaming methodology to getting “stronger, happier, and more resilient”. If this turns you off and you think this is quackery, hold on.

About the Author

McGonigal, in addition to being an avid video game player and designer, is also a PhD and Director of Games Research & Development at the Institute of the Future. She has led workshops for numerous Fortune 500 companies and taught at UC Berkley and the San Francisco Art Institute. Her TED talks on this topic have been viewed more than 10 million times. Her SuperBetter methodology has been scientifically researched and validated by several universities and medical centers.

How the Book Works

While the SuperBetter approach is easy to understand and follow, the book is long and not a quick read. It is divided into three parts, and the reader does not necessarily need to follow them chronologically (though the book is worth reading in its entirety). Instead, you can pick and choose the parts that you are most interested in. Not surprisingly, the book is full of gaming terminology. That makes it easy to understand and fun to follow. It is simply part of why this approach works.

Throughout the book you will find more than 50 quests to complete. Those quests represent the real-world applicability and interactive qualities of the book. Of course they are fun too. Follow along and complete the quests, like in a game; they start off very easy and will get more and more involved. The quests address one of four areas: physical, mental, emotional, and social resilience. Through those quests you will gamefully address and manage your life challenges.

Why Games Make us Superbetter

The first part of the book is a detailed overview of the science of games and presents evidence on why they work in alleviating physical and mental pain. It’s fascinating to read how games we all know and which are easily available on a smart phone can benefit our well being (Tetris and Candycrush for example).

This part of the book also discusses what it means to be gameful. Being gameful is the state of mind we are in when we play games and it is key to why games are successful in helping us cope. McGonigal defines gameful as “bringing psychological strengths you naturally display when you play games – such as optimism, creativity, courage and determination – to your real life”. Whenever we approach life’s hurdles optimistically, courageously, determined, and creatively, we stand a much higher chance of prevailing.

How to be Gameful

Part two is the practical part that introduces, explains, and demonstrates the SuperBetter method, which readers can immediately apply to their lives. Here McGonigal gives us many quests to fulfill.  And, as is befitting for a book about gaming, she uses gameful concepts and language, which doesn’t only make it useful but also fun to follow along. The seven rules that make up the SuperBetter method are:

  1. Challenge yourself
  2. Collect and activate power-ups
  3. Find and battle the bad guys
  4. Seek out and complete quests
  5. Recruit your allies
  6. Adopt a secret identity
  7. Go for an epic win

While being gameful, these seven chapters address physical, mental, emotional, and social challenges, how to approach and cope with them.

Adventures

The final part of the book consists of three adventures addressing issues of relationships, body image, and time management. McGonigal defines adventure as “a set of power-ups, bad guys, and quests, designed to help you tackle a particular challenge”. In other words, this chapter represents three full tutorials of how to apply the SuperBetter method to problems in these three specific areas. This also serves as a blueprint to design your own adventures for challenges that you are facing and need to get SuperBetter at.

Final thoughts

Overall this book is well worth reading all its 425 pages (warning: take your time, it is not a quick read). McGonigal’s truly unique (and scientifically validated) approach will surely help people address serious real-life issues from a new angle. If you follow along and complete the quests and adventures while you are reading, you will have gained new coping techniques by the end of the book, guaranteed. For those readers already well versed in gaming terminology and methodology, go ahead and jump right into the quests. For all others, the methods in the book will represent a change in mindset about problem-solving, which is itself a worthwhile effort.

If you want to try out the online and app versions of the game, find more info at www.superbetter.com  If you are interested in the science behind SuperBetter, you can learn more at www.showmethescience.com

Written by Anne Nowak

Job Searching with Facebook

If you’re a savvy job-seeker, you already know that social media is a crucial job search tool – for establishing your personal brand, expanding your network, and discovering the hidden job market. But what you may not know is, there is a new tool you can add to your social media job search toolkit. Facebook has recently launched Facebook Jobs, an app which allows you to find and apply for jobs directly through Facebook.

How to use facebook jobs

Once you log into your personal Facebook page, the Jobs tool is visible on the left sidebar under “Explore.”

Click on the Jobs tab and you will see:

  • the Location that determines which job openings are shown
  • a list of Job-Type boxes so you can narrow down the search by Full-Time, Part-Time, Internship, and so on
  • a list of Industry boxes so you can narrow down what types of jobs interest you
  • a Search jobs field if you would like to search for jobs with certain key terms

Depending on what search terms you use, you will see “posts” for job openings in your Location area, Industry, and Job Type. If you see a position that interests you have the option to click on Apply Now – but you might not want to.

One Major caveat

The Facebook Jobs tool has one great advantage, which is that it makes it very easy and convenient for you to look for a variety of jobs at once. Much like aggregate job posting sites such as Indeed, it’s a time-saving one-stop shop for job searchers. But once you find a job you’d like to apply for, we recommend that you do not actually apply for the job through Facebook itself (unless that is the only option). We strongly recommend that you go to the company’s official website and apply there instead.

We have two major reasons for this recommendation. First, many people see Facebook as a place of play, not a place of business. Submitting your application that way may cause you to be taken less seriously, especially if the application links directly to your personal Facebook page – which is probably much less polished and professional-looking than your resume or LinkedIn profile. Second, there is always a risk that you will be sharing your information with a suspicious source. There are a lot of scam artists who lure in victims with fake job offers, and Facebook may not be able to thoroughly vet them all. Thus, the company’s official website is the safer bet.

Applying for a job through facebook

Again, we recommend that you don’t do this, and use the company’s official website instead. However, sometimes that’s not an option. If the job can only be applied for on Facebook (and you’re certain that it’s legitimate),  click “Apply Now” on the job posting. This opens up a rudimentary job application form where you can provide contact information, education, and experience. There is also an option to be notified by that organization about other job openings.

Advertising a job through facebook

If you run a small business with a corporate Facebook page, you can use the Facebook Jobs tool to advertise your job openings. This may be a good way to expand your pool of applicants, because far more people will see your openings here than on your company website. Once you log into your corporate page, there is a button for Publish a job post.

That opens a form on which the organization can post the open position with places to add information about Job Title, Location, Salary, Job Type, Details, Additional Questions, and a Photo if desired (such as a business or company logo).

Overall impression

Whether the Facebook Jobs tool is useful to you will depend on your needs and circumstances. If you have highly specialized skills, or if you are only interested in a handful of companies, this tool may not help you find what you’re looking for. If, however, you’re not completely sure what you want or where to find it, this tool can be a great way to look at a large variety of local job listings with a minimum of fuss. We saw lots of openings for retail, food service, caregiver, and labor positions, but there’s a little of everything and a few off-the-wall postings you’d have trouble finding elsewhere. In general, we think it’s a good tool to help both companies and job-seekers.

Written by Richard Wright and Lynnette Lee

Monday Motivation

Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.

theodore isaac rubin

New Resource: Job Search Quiz

Test your Career know-how with our Job Search Quiz

The Career Center recently added a new resource to its website: a job search quiz. This 20-question, true-false quiz will test your knowledge of general job search techniques, interviewing, resume-writing, and networking.

The quiz’s most helpful feature: after your test is scored, you will be provided with detailed explanations for each question. These explanations will help you become a savvier job-seeker and increase your likelihood of success landing a great job.

You may take the quiz here or on the Job Search page of our website. As always, if you would like further assistance with any aspect of your job search, contact the Career Center at 225-231-3733.

Written by Lynnette Lee

2020 Census Hiring Has Begun!

Hiring for the upcoming 2020 Us Census has recently kicked off for the Baton Rouge, LA area. These are temporary but lucrative jobs.

How do I apply?

Information and applications are available at these two websites:

  • https://2020census.gov/jobs This website has the best overview and information about the 2020 Census, jobs associated with it, and hiring procedures. You can apply on this site.
  • www.usajobs.gov Search the job listings, using “census” as your keyword and “Baton Rouge, LA” as your location.  You will see the list of positions that are currently open. You can apply on this site. The list changes frequently, so you want to keep checking.

What kinds of jobs are available?

All local positions for the 2020 Census positions are temporary and will last for a maximum of two years! Since there are fluctuations in work volume, many of those positions also do not have a set number of hours per week associated with them. This is called a “mixed tour work schedule” and means that an employee can be switched from full-time to part-time to intermittent work schedules.

Job that are currently listed on www.usajobs.gov for Baton Rouge are:
Lead Census Field Manager (closing 10/15/2018)
Information Technology Manager (closing 10/19/2018)
Administrative Manager (closing 10/15/2018)

Eventually there will be more positions such as recruiter, recruiting assistant, office operations supervisor, census taker, and some clerical positions. Keep checking the websites often to be aware of new positions posted and closing dates.

The first jobs will start in late 2018/early 2019. Those are mainly the higher level management/supervisory positions as well as the recruiters who are tasked with starting up the local offices and subsequently recruiting the census takers and other staff. Most census takers will be hired in the spring and summer of 2019. For more info check here: https://2020census.gov/jobs/job-details.html#faqs

What are the qualifications?

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have a valid Social Security number.
  • Be a U.S. citizen.
  • Have a valid email address.
  • Complete an application and answer assessment questions. (Some assessment questions are available in Spanish. However, an English proficiency test may also be required.)
  • Be registered with the Selective Service System or have a qualifying exemption, if you are a male born after Dec. 31, 1959.
  • Pass a Census-performed criminal background check and a review of criminal records, including fingerprinting.
  • Commit to completing training.
  • Be available to work flexible hours, which can include days, evenings, and/or weekends.
  • Have access to a vehicle and a valid driver’s license, unless public transportation is readily available.
  • Have access to a computer with internet and an email account (to complete training).

Written by Anne Nowak