Dear J.T. & Dale: I took two years off to care for my sick mother who recently passed away. I put it on my résumé, and I showed it to a friend who works at a company I’d like to get hired at. She told me to take it off because the HR department won’t hire me since I haven’t been working. Instead, she told me to put that I’ve been a contractor. I did do some freelance work while caring for my mom, but it was only a few hours each week. I don’t want to lie, but I also don’t want employers dismissing me due to a two-year gap. What should I do?
J.T.: I think it’s OK to keep on your résumé the fact that you were the primary caregiver for your mom. This is becoming more and more common as Baby Boomers require care. It shows your loyalty and commitment to family. That said, I would also add the freelance work. You can list it as part time after the job title. At least it will show that you’ve kept up your skills while caring for a loved one.
DALE: Agreed, although I’d reverse the emphasis. A two-year stint away from the workplace does raise issues in the mind of the résumé reader: Did this guy keep up on the latest industry trends? Is he really psychologically ready to re-enter the workforce? Such questions cause many hiring managers to simply turn to other applicants. That’s why it’s useful to refer to the time as having been a contractor, freelancer or consultant. The beauty of these terms is that they are flexible. But that very flexibility also creates doubts: Why wasn’t this person hired as a regular employee? Or, if truly self-employed, why quit? Was he failing? So, Rocky, by listing your employment as a contractor, then adding it was part time in order to care for your parent, you will have allayed fears.
Dear J.T. & Dale: My boss is a total narcissist. He is impossible to be around. The good news is, he only shows up to the office half the time, so I only have to put up with him about 20 hours each week. That said, when he is here, he’s unbearable. He talks my ear off, and I get nothing done. The problem is, the pay is so good, I can’t get hired any place else for the same amount. He clearly overpays to keep people from leaving. I feel trapped.
J.T.: Focus on how you can skill build while working for him. That will eventually let you close the pay gap and get hired someplace where you get paid the same and don’t have to deal with him.
DALE: You’ll want to start asking friends and colleagues about the best bosses they’ve ever had, and learn to spot the good ones. Meanwhile, you have to make yourself worthy of such bosses, and that’s building your skill set. Doing so, you start to build up your escape velocity, which makes the process energizing.
JEANINE “J.T.” TANNER O’DONNELL is a career coach and the founder of the career site www.workitdaily.com. DALE DAUTEN is founder of the Innovators’ Lab. Visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Fl, New York, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.