Anna from University of Houston asked:
“I’m a non-traditional student and don’t have any current work experience since I last worked over 10 years ago. What can I include on my resume to cover this gap in my work history?”
Thank you for your question, Anna. Being out of the workforce for a while can be difficult when creating your resume. Although you will have gaps, all is not lost. You are a current student, learning the latest and greatest, so constructing a resume that highlights your recent skills is key. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 71 percent of all U.S. undergraduates are nontraditional students. With those figures, it’s safe to say that you are not an anomaly; we can assume recruiters are reviewing resumes from non-traditional students more often than not.
The key to adding valuable content in your resume is to focus on what you’re currently doing, if you’re not doing anything outside of the classroom, now is the time to start. As a current student, you should get involved on campus, start volunteering and highlight relevant school projects to include in your resume.
Student affairs – Get to know them!
Student Affairs is the department on campus whose purpose is to enhance student growth and development. Here is where you’ll find activities to demonstrate your leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. By participating in school activities such as student government or academic clubs you are able showcase your soft skills, a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes, and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with) which are always relevant and in high demand in the work place. Most importantly, activities take place during the day, in the evening or on weekends. This allows flexibility for nontraditional students to get involved. Visit an office in student affairs now!
Community service – Show the employer you’re an involved Citizen.
Make time to get involved. What you participate in during your free time (I know, what free time) says a lot about you to your future employer. You are someone who works to make your community a better place to live and work. Highlight the skills that you learned and demonstrated while volunteering. For example, if you coordinated a project, describe your volunteer experience as a Project Coordinator. This descriptive job title is sure to peak the employer’s interest and highlight relevant skills. My favorite site for finding community services is volunteermatch.org. Using their advanced search feature will allow you to locate “virtual” volunteer opportunities. If time is of the essence, being able to volunteer virtually will make all the difference.
Major school projects – Don’t stop showing off your hard work after you turn in your assignment!
All of your research, planning, and late nights in front of the computer are not in vain. As I mentioned previously, potential employers want to see that you have soft skills, which are also called employability skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Using your major school project, you can explain how you possess these skills using the STAR approach. Describe the Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Employers understand that students may not have direct experience, hence the word “student”, however, they do want to see that you are able to translate what you’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to the world of work.
Every experience is preparing you for the next one!
Nontraditional students often balance work, school, and family; employers realize you are managing your time and commitments. By participating in school activities, volunteering, and highlighting major school projects, you are proving to a potential employer that you are dedicated to remaining sharp and involved. The key is your ability to articulate this on your resume to close the gap between where you are now and when you last worked. By displaying this first on your resume, you are telling a potential employer you’re worth the risk, even if your work experience is 10 years ago. Now you’re ready to blow them away during the interview! You can share stories about what you’ve currently been up to and incorporate your several years of paid work experience.