Remember back at the beginning of time when you would return to school in the fall and would have to write something about what you did all summer?
Oh how I envied all those kids who did exciting things over the summer. We didn’t have a lot of money and my father was a plumbing contractor, so we really couldn’t go anywhere during the summer. My father worked 7 days a week and I worked with him 6 days a week. Summer was a time to make money. (And, it was up hill BOTH ways to school. Not only that, but the snow was always 6 feet deep!)
Although I suppose I could have written about the work I did — digging up septic tanks (this was pre-back hoe) or soldering pipes — somehow a journey to the Grand Canyon or something would have been more exciting.
But, we did what we did and I had to make the best of it when I wrote that beginning of the year theme.
Much the same is true of extended job searches. Everyone thinks you have been on vacation! So, what have you been doing since you lost your job? It is a question that rolls off the lips like you have been goofing off. Job search is hard work, but no one working seems to know or if they were out of work, they don’t seem to remember what it was like.
That said, it is a fair question. The part you have to get past is not reacting to the TONE of the question. You also have to be careful not to try to account for every minute as us financial types are prone to do.
Let’s assume you have been really trying to find a job. (Good assumption, don’t you think?)
Make broad statements about what you have been doing without nailing them down to specific time periods or lengths of time you were doing them. For example saying “Of course I took a short vacation to organize my thinking and get focused.” If it was a short 6-month vacation, don’t tell them.
Another thing not to say is that you didn’t have to worry because you had a lot of severance, so there was no rush. Bad topic and it implies the lack of a sense of urgency.
Did you take any courses? Stick to topics that will build your candidacy, not undermine it.
Cleaning your closets, painting your house, spending time with your children or spouse are all good things, but if you decide to mention them, structure them like they were somehow work. You researched your remodeling job, you bid out the work, and you supervised the contractors. Build it up, don’t build it down.
As an example, I cringe when I read the hobbies section of many resumes – reading, listening to music, etc. are valuable activities to your mental health. Alas, they don’t play well in providing you with an image of high energy.
If you played tennis all summer, make it appear that you set goals for yourself to improve your game for example, and lost 30 pounds. You set goals and achieved them.
Members who have ideas on how to build on this theme should send them in. The topic to use is “What have you been doing?” Please send it to Leads@TheFENG.org and Leslie will include them under our Notes from Members”.