Many survivors of domestic abuse will find themselves back in the job market again, often after a hiatus that had something to do with the abuse. For some, their abusers may not have allowed them to work, or the absences caused by the abuse resulted in them being fired. Other survivors who were employed through abuse may have left their jobs when they left their abusers, either to relocate for safety or to have a fresh start at a new company.
A new job can recharge your sense of self-worth and bring renewed confidence, not to mention give you financial independence. To land that dream position, you’re going to need a stellar resume, one that stands out from the crowd. After all, you have only six seconds to make an introduction via that slip of paper—statistically, the average amount of time a potential employer will look at it.
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Cover the Checklist
You can find a lot of examples of impressive resume examples online, and there’s no rule against getting inspiration from those—or downloading the templates as is—and adapting one to fit your skills and expertise.
Make sure to double-check for any obvious mistakes after filling in your work history, skills and education. Can you check off all these points as you read through your resume? It might be useful to have a second, even a third, person look over your resume to help proof it.
__ Does your resume look clean and simple? Is the font easily readable and the size large enough to be legible, but not overly large that it looks comical?
__ Is it easy to follow? Remember, employers rarely look at the resume from the top down. It should be clear no matter which part they jump into. Use bullet points and lists to outline skills and experience, not long, rambling paragraphs.
__ Is it free of spelling and grammatical errors?
__ Have you avoided any gibberish, made-up words, slang, undefined acronyms or superfluous (extra) words?
__ Does each bullet point in your experience and skills sections start with an action verb? Examples: “Created,” “Maintained,” “Developed,” or “Oversaw.”
__ Does your resume match the job you’re applying for? Have you custom-tailored it to describe your experience in a way that would make you a natural fit for the position they’re looking to fill?
__ Have you been discerning about what details to include? Avoid the temptation to overly stuff your resume with everything you’ve ever done. Choose only the most relevant or impressive experience and selling points for yourself in order to hold an employer’s attention.
When Your Experience is Slim
Did you spend the previous 10 years raising kids while appeasing or avoiding an abusive partner? Is your work history a little light, or did you change jobs often as you moved around, never holding one for a long period of time?
It’s OK, you’re not alone. There’s a way to craft a resume that puts your best foot forward no matter your past. It’s all about the wording.
- Life Experience. Look at the past decade and evaluate what you’ve done that could translate into employable skills. Have you provided childcare for neighbors and friends? Did you market and sell a product from home? Did you help out with a family business? These are valid forms of work experience and should be listed under an “Experience” heading.
- Freelance. Have you done any one-off jobs? Something that took you a short period of time but which was relevant to the job you’re applying for? You can list this under a “Consulting” header, which sounds more professional. This includes working for a temp agency at any point.
- Think About Classes. Have you taken any classes or trainings since graduating from school? If not, maybe now is the time to sign up for a few online classes in the field you’re trying to get into and list those under “Relevant Coursework.” Remember to only list classes that are related to the job you’re applying for.
- List (or Find!) Volunteer Work. What volunteer work have you done or are you currently doing? If you haven’t done any, see if you can find a few hours out of your week to volunteer your skill set at a local nonprofit. List these positions under “Nonprofit” or “Nonprofit Experience” and outline the skills used just as you would for paid employment. Most likely, there are proficiencies you’ve developed here that a future employer will be impressed with.
- What Are You Good At? List your skills by category. Do you have computer skills? Are you an artist? Are you proficient on social media? Do you speak multiple languages?
- Keep It Real. No matter what, don’t be tempted to lie. You might be able to make it past the interview stage with a padded resume, but an employer is bound to find out you don’t have the skills you say at some point, and you’ll likely be fired.
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One thing employers look at now as compared to a decade ago is your LinkedIn profile. Make sure it’s up to date with the most relevant experience and job listings possible and see if past colleagues will write notes of recommendation for you on your page. This can help reinforce to an employer that you’re still current with the industry even if there has been a gap in employment.
And speaking of profiles, make sure your other social media profiles like Facebook and Twitter are on lockdown (aka, hidden) or void of anything that could make an employer question hiring you. When in doubt, simply delete your social media accounts while job searching.
For more tips on switching careers, read, “Starting Fresh With a Career Swap.”
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