Help me get back into the workforce
November 10, 2011 12:54 PM Subscribe
How should I handle leaving a job due to illness (and a subsequent extended absence) when reapplying to jobs in finance and consulting?
posted by btkuhn to work & money (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I graduated from college in 2007 and was hired to work in trading at one of the big investment banks in new york. Unfortunately I had an undiagnosed blood disorder that conveniently started to show itself right as I started the job and progressively (but slowly) got worse. To make a long story short, I stayed with the program for about a year but didn't have any energy, felt horrible all the time, and thus was all around not a very good employee. I didn't get complaints or anything but banking's the type of business where you're expected to thrive, especially as a young analyst, and I didn't. I was struggling just to make it through the day most of the time. After a year of this I was in really bad shape, and it was clear to everyone that there was something wrong, so I went on medical leave. I got treated, got better, but it took a long time including a lengthy hospital stay.
So after I got well, I was quite embarrassed about what had happened and didn't go back to my employer - I'm not sure if I could have anyway since I had been gone for about 9 months and this was during a time of shrinking balance sheets and staffing for the banks. Instead, I bought a plane ticket and went on a round the world trip, something I'd always wanted to do but never had the free time or money.
After 2 years on the road, I'm back home as of a week ago and ready to reenter the real world. I have no idea, however, how to handle my illness and the extended absence from the workforce on my resume and cover letters. I remember the hiring process coming out of undergrad being really competitive (for ibanking and consulting), but as a senior in college at least there were specific programs designed for graduating seniors. Now I'm an outsider with just a year of experience, which isn't enough to interest anyone as an experienced hire, plus it was three years ago and there's a big gap after that.
So I guess my questions are, first, how should I treat the gap from 2008 until now on my resume? Do I just list my last job, 2007-2008, and leave it at that? I know how resumes are screened (at least at my old workplace) and they are usually just skimmed - I would think that my last job being in 2008, right at the top of my resume, would immediately ding me at many places. I did do quite a bit of volunteer work while overseas and learned spanish, and I plan on adding this to my resume, but I'd think this wouldn't even get seen if my reume is passed over based on my last work experience finishing in 2008.
Next: how should I address my work history when writing cover letters? I'm afraid that if I don't bring up the reason I left my first job it will be assumed either that I quit (because I couldn't handle the pressure, not uncommon in ibanking but almost definitely a big strike against) or I was fired (worse). Should I just come out and say "I left my first job because of illness"? If I use the more vague "personal reasons" that sounds to me like a euphemism for "couldn't handle the pressure". How should I deal with this tactfully?
On preview: I should probably say that I'll be targetnig jobs in trading and strategy consulting, in case that wasn't clear. I had offers at firms in both industries coming out of school and I think my personality and skills are well suited for either one...also sorry about the length.