How to handle a “short stay” on your resume

May 5, 2010 at 2:15 am 1 comment

An email correspondent wonders what to do about a recent six-month-long stint on his resume. Having been unemployed for seven or so months following a layoff and running low on savings, he accepted a job well below his experience level just to have something (including affordable health insurance for his family). Though he says he didn’t take the job with the intention of leaving it so soon, in only a few months one of the other employers he’d been pursuing came after him — and two months later offered him a better position in all respects. He parted ways — as amicably as possible under the circumstances, he says — and has been in his new job for more than a year and all is going well.

The problem faced by my correspondent, and others who may plead guilty to job-jumping charges, is what to do about this “short stay” on a resume? He isn’t ashamed of the position or organization yet he knows that including a six-month-long job on his resume will raise some questions. Yet he also correctly worries that if he leaves it off his resume and a prospective employer finds out about it, he’ll look like he’s hiding something and his honesty may be questioned — and that can’t help one’s candidacy for a job, especially in journalism.

Hiring experts say that short job stints, while a potential problem, can effectively be explained away these days by job cuts and by the ever-changing nature of the job market. While job hopping remains something to be avoided whenever possible (see Jan. 4 post, “Should you worry about job jumping?”) a job hunter can address a short stay on their resume and in interviews in the following ways:

*Consider and explain the circumstances. In certain industry segments, short stints are the norm; think of campaign workers or high-tech folks who go from start-up to start-up. They readily acknowledge their short stays because they have an acceptable explanation for why they weren’t there very long — the job ended. The same is true of people who were laid off from jobs after a short period, no one can fault you for that, especially these days. But for those who, like my email correspondent, made a decision to leave a job quickly (or worse yet, were fired for cause) a good explanation is necessary. If you list the position on your resume (and as discussed in the next item, you may choose not to do so) explain the job’s duties in a way that makes it clear these helped you land your next position. Then in an interview, you can fill in the blanks — explaining that you took this job because you wanted to develop a certain skill set or gain experience in a new field. Never lie or obfuscate but seek to show the interviewer that it wasn’t poor performance or flightiness on your part that caused you to leave after a short period; show them that you had a good reason.

*Leave the job off your resume or consolidate this position with others in a section of your resume. Especially if you are a mid-career professional with many other jobs and accomplishments to highlight on your resume, leaving one or even two positions off may not raise a red flag. (If you have other gaps in your resume, however, you may not want to use this strategy. See Dec. 2 post, “How to handle gaps in your resume.”) Another idea is to consolidate the job entry — perhaps as a “bullet item” — on your resume in a section with other positions around this time period. Also, hiring experts say that dates on your resume these days shouldn’t be given undue attention anyway and advise putting them off to the side or in parentheses after other elements of a job like the title and duties. (Months are also optional.) So in this case, the best offense may be a good defense — don’t mention it on your resume at all. If an interviewer discovers the job and asks why it isn’t on your resume, say you had other more meaningful positions you wanted to highlight. And then follow the tips in the previous suggestion and be honest about the position.

*Arm referrals and references with information about this job stint so they can help you explain it away. Helping you defend weak links in your background is one of the ways that a strong network can come to your aid. A contact well-respected by a hiring manager can simultaneously play up your candidacy and downplay a short-term job so that this issue is neutralized. And if they address this issue before the organization receives your resume or the hiring manager interviews you, so much the better — it’s out in the open and all you have to do is respond honestly. It’s also important to prepare your references for possible questions about a short-term job so that they are able to back up your explanation of why you left quickly. If you’re all on the same page, you may be able to put this issue in context and move on to why you’re a great fit for the position.

*A few reminders about some upcoming events:

*The National Press Club will host a daylong event on Saturday, May 15 for journalists looking to keep up their skills. Details follow:

Event: Journalism Survival Bootcamp
When: Saturday May 15, 2010
Where: National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor – Washington, DC 20045
So maybe your stats aren’t good enough for the NPC softball team. But you can learn to stay in the game — the journalism game — on Saturday, May 15 at the National Press Club’s Second Annual Journalism Survival Bootcamp, a day-long career-oriented program aimed at helping reporters and editors stay competitive.

We’ll kick-off the day-long event with a session looking at “Opportunities Hidden in the Headlines” with tips and advice on how to transform yourself into a tech-savvy reporting powerhouse. Later in the day, participants will take classes on video and “backpack” coverage, building online portfolios and more. They’ll also hear from career coaches and networking experts and end with a session on “Where the Jobs are” with top hiring editors.

By the end of the day, members will have the perspective they need to stay relevant in an ever-changing news business. Panelists include top editors and instructors from: AOL, Bloomberg, NPR, Northwestern’s Medill, American University and more. See how you’ll fit into the bigger picture as the media landscape changes; here’s what some people had to say about last year’s bootcamp: http://www.rra.org/blog/?p=28.

The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and costs $15 for NPC members, $65 for non-members. View the full agenda online at http://www.press.org/training/profdev.cfm. To register: contact Nicole Nottingham at nnottingham@press.org or +1 (202) 662 7523.

*Also, a reminder that this Thursday, May 6, a U.S. News reunion will be held starting at 5 p.m. (drink specials are from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) at West End Bistro at 22nd and M streets N.W. in D.C….Please spread the word to anyone who was part of the publication any time over the past several decades! (And we’re trying to help out those who got caught up in the most recent round of layoffs there.)

*And now for a variety of job leads:

*The Food and Drug Administration has an opening in College Park, Md.,  for a writer/editor:
Writer/Editor
Health & Human Services, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – College Park, MD
appropriate written communications for various… information and developing appropriate written communications for various audiences; communicating with… $89,033 – $115,742 a year
From usajobs.gov

*The U.S. Coast Guard has an opening in D.C. for a communications specialist:
Program Specialist (Communications), GS-0301-13 / 14
Homeland Security, US Coast Guard – Washington, DC
Strategic Planning and Communications, Washington, DC… incumbent of this position functions as the Communications Director and will support major acquisition… $89,033 – $136,771 a year
From usajobs.gov

*LexisNexis in D.C. is looking for a senior director of privacy and communication:
Sr Dir Privacy & Communication – LEX002UR – Full Time
LexisNexis – Washington, DC
Senior Director Privacy and Communications, has primary responsibility for communication internally and… Strong written and verbal communication, industry…
From Jobmagic

*Convergenz is filling an opening in D.C. for a research/copy chief:
Research/ Copy Chief
Convergenz – Washington, DC
Supervise team of copy editors and/or fact checkers… of copy editors and/or fact checkers * Superior interpersonal, organizational and communication (written…
From Convergenz

*The IRS has an opening in D.C. for a public affairs specialist to supervise internal communication analysts:
Supervisory Public Affairs Specialist
Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – Washington, DC
over Internal Communications Programs. The incumbent supervises Internal Communication analysts, who serve… Communication Planning – Knowledge of communication… $105,221 a year
From Internal Revenue Service

*The Pew Charitable Trusts in D.C. has an opening for a project director for the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Campaign:

Project Director, Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Campaign
The Pew Charitable Trusts – Washington, DC
a sophisticated communications effort in support of… policy analysis, issue campaigns and communications strategies. Benefits: Pew offers a competitive…
From Bridgestar

*Here’s an opening that could be right for a transitioning journalist with a background in criminal and social justice issues; the Vera Institute of Justice in D.C. is seeking a director:
Director
Vera Institute of Justice – Washington, DC
ability to write for a policy audience; • Excellent presentation and communication skills; • Ability to work with a range of stakeholders; • Willingness…
From Vera Institute of Justice

*And last but not least today, with a hat tip to mediabistro.com, the Heritage Foundation in D.C. has an opening for a senior media associate:

The Heritage Foundation
Industry Non-profit, Public Relations
Salary Competitive
Benefits 401K/403B, Bonuses, Dental, Health
Job Duration Full Time
Job Location Washington, DC USA
Job Requirements This position is responsible for pitching news and editorial interviews with Heritage executives and experts, and promoting story ideas based on Heritage research and the Leadership for America campaign to broadcast journalists. This position requires existing broadcast contacts, the ability to establish and maintain effective relationships with members of the media with special emphasis on producers and correspondents with network and cable news outlets, and national radio broadcasts in the top U.S. markets. This position will also oversee media outreach on defense and foreign policy issues.

Education: BA/BS, preferably in Communications, Journalism or Public Relations.

Experience: A minimum of 5-7 years of newsroom and/or press office experience.

Skills: Must understand news media needs and processes, and what defines news. Must understand how Capitol Hill communicates with its various constituencies. Must be aggressive, creative and confident in pitching Heritage and its analysts, resources and executives. Must be able to think strategically and plan comprehensive media campaigns. Must have knowledge of the legislative process and major policy debates Must understand and support the Heritage mission and vision for America, and the department’s goals and objectives

About Our Company The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institutiona think tankwhose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.

Good luck on the hunt today!

Jodi

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

What successful job hunters have in common When to refer someone for a job

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Alexis Grant  |  May 5, 2010 at 2:47 am

    I like how the gov jobs include salary… now THAT’s how to catch the eye of a transitioning journalist. thanks for leads as usual!

    Reply

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