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Dear Laura: What is the best way to handle significant employment gaps (2.5 years) on your resume? I have been working in my field as a “temp,” volunteer, and independent consultant, depending the job, while conducting my full time job search. But what approach is best to use on your resume: listing these jobs jobs/activities separately and labeling them as “contract assignment,” “freelance,” “independent consultant,” “volunteer,” etc; or creating a consulting business such as “XYZ Consulting” and listing yourself as the President, Founder, CEO, Principal, etc. and then listing the jobs/activities as highlights of the position.
Laura: Very timely question, as I know many job seekers are–given the economic conditions–having trouble finding full-time employment but are still remaining busy and professionally relevant with meaningful, albeit short-term, stints.
The good news is this; in most cases, recruiters don’t negatively view these types of short-term “gigs,” especially if they are still in your chosen profession. As such, if they truly are similar in function, you should treat them as one entry on your resume. In my humble opinion, I would opt for using the title “Consultant” or “Freelancer” over that of creating a company, as the latter indicates that you have attempted to go out on your own (especially if you have gone to the effort of forming an LLC or other legal entity), and then you’ll have to answer questions about why you don’t want to stay on “your own” any longer! Yikes. Best to be just be honest, I say. More importantly, make sure you highlight any accomplishments, making it clear the impact you had on these assignments, regardless of their ultimate duration.
For volunteer experience that is within your desired field, you can create a separate “Volunteer Experience” section, or you can include some of your major accomplishments in the career summary (if they truly are major and speak volumes about your work product) or include them in a “Community Service” section, which typically lands at the bottom of the resume.