Career advice: Explaining those resume gaps

Premier 100 IT Leader Bill Brown also has advice on job boredom and careers networking

Bill Brown of Avid Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader Bill Brown Title: Vice president and CIOCompany: Avid

Brown is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader, answering questions about job boredom, resume gaps and job networking. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to askaleader@computerworld.com.

I left my QA job and moved to another city for personal reasons (I was in a relationship that has since ended). For the next two years, I worked as a waitress. Now I'm back home and eager to resume my professional life. In the interviews I've had so far, I have stumbled when asked about this gap in my resume. It seems too personal to discuss in the context of a professional interview, and because I now feel like I made a mistake, I can't really talk about it well. How should I handle this? The best way to address gaps is head on. Believe it not, many of us have had similar episodes in our own careers, including many interviewers. In this case, I would share that you made a personal commitment to a significant other that caused you to temporarily interrupt your career. Oftentimes, you can parlay your interim experiences into a selling point, and many applicants sometimes call this out in an "Additional Experiences" section of their resume. In general, just provide the facts, don't feel the need to share details, and turn the conversation back to your professional qualifications for the new role.

When I was in school, I worked at a small company, doing just about everything imaginable related to computers. Since then, I have leveraged that experience and my degree into a job at a large corporation, where I have moved from the help desk to systems administration. The pay is much better than my old part-time job, but the work is far less interesting for me. I'm not sure what I want to do really, but I think sometimes about finding a job with broader duties out of sheer boredom. Is that crazy, or just unwise? No, this isn't crazy or unwise. Orientation as a specialist or generalist is a common issue in determining employee job satisfaction and isn't always an indicator of compensation value. There is a lot of information in the public domain as well as exercises you can do to help you identify in what realm you will be more satisfied. You will also find that this will change over time. It's similar to the issues that one may wrestle with when considering a path to be a manager vs. individual contributor. In your particular case, try to identify what aspects of the generalist help desk job kept you satisfied and then identify what is missing now. And most importantly, share this feedback with your manager so you can work out a solution to find a more fulfilling role together. The fact is, there may be a lot more interesting work for you to do that your manager would happy to delegate or reassign to you.

When it comes to advancing careers, everyone says, "Network, network, network!" What are the best ways to do that? First and foremost, the biggest tip I can provide is to develop and nurture your network before you need it! Your network is a complex organism with many constituents, namely your managers, peers, subordinates, business and personal contacts, both past and present. They all play an important role in your network. The good news is that today's social media technologies (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) can help you manage and grow your network very effectively and efficiently. In addition to keeping you in touch with your constituents, they can help you build your brand and generally make it public so potential employers can take note. If you haven't done so yet, create a Twitter handle, and simply start following your constituents. Furthermore, freshen up your LinkedIn profile and start building your network connections.

Read more about careers in Computerworld's Careers Topic Center.

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