How can I account for a long break in my work history? Plus, I'm disabled.
June 25, 2012 5:47 PM   Subscribe

Because of a disability, I have not been in the workforce for nine years. I am now looking for employment and would like some advice on how to account for the absence.

I have been in college for the last three years, and I know this to be a great thing, as I will graduate soon. I am mentally disabled, but that does not preclude me from doing many work-related activities. I would be grateful for tips for my resumes, as I am trying to dress them up to my current circumstances. I also understand that the truth is sufficient for certain opportunities, but I may start out with a job that need not bear unveiling the truth. If this helps, my employment experience includes high-end retail, customer service, shipping and receiving, kitchen work, and technical photography skills.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You need a functional resume rather than strictly chronological. Basically, you group your skills together and list your jobs last. It's a great way to minimize gaps in your history. I think that since you are just graduating from school, people won't care do much about each bit of time before school.
posted by dawkins_7 at 5:58 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that since you are just graduating from school, people won't care do much about each bit of time before school.

I would second this. The career center at your university should be able to help you find potential jobs that are looking for new graduates; they won't necessarily be expecting recent work experience. In fact, the type of jobs you had previously would be a big plus if you were applying for a job with my team as a recent grad. Our biggest concern with new graduates is work ethic and the transition from school mode to professional job mode, and we actually like to see things like retail work and kitchen work because we know those are hard jobs.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:15 PM on June 25, 2012

I agree with dawkins_7. I recently switched jobs, and the winning resume listed skills at the top with only very basic employment information underneath. It's a lot easier for the HR department to decide if you're a fit if you explicitly list what you can do rather than have them search through all manner of employment history.
posted by neveroddoreven at 7:54 PM on June 25, 2012

Great advice above and I would like to echo Blue Jello Elf and say when I look at your resume I firstly see that you completed your degree. Secondly you held down several jobs that were demanding, and finally that in a few of those jobs you had a customer facing role which required problem solving capabilities.
My only tip is I would emphasise the problem solving or responsibility aspect, e.g. did you have any direct responsibility for money, cashing up, petty cash, reconciling at the end of the day, etc.,? If so be specific about that.
With the customer service, did you have to resolve the issues yourself? if so put a sentence about that.
I'm not suggesting a narrative, just a brief description of these aspects of those job. Good luck
posted by Wilder at 12:07 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Great suggestions here that make it possible for you not to have to discuss the subject at all. Your college's disability center or your local disability advocacy center may have some helpful work-arounds as well. The Center for Independent Living in Berkeley will be able to provide referrals.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:03 AM on June 26, 2012

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