Ask Matt: Out of work? Focus on the Future, Not the Past

  • Article by: MATT KRUMRIE , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: April 11, 2011 - 12:38 PM

If you've been out of work for an extended period of time, it can be hard to not talk about how that's affecting you. Two Twin Cities career gurus talk about the best way to present yourself - and look past the layoff.

Dear Matt: I've been laid off for almost eight months and because of that there is an obvious a gap in my résumé. How do I explain this in a cover letter, résumé or while networking?

Matt: Because of a turbulent economy and job market, employers are used to interviewing candidates who have been out of work for an extended time. But the reality is, how you present yourself while unemployed can play a big role in how you are perceived in an interview or networking situation.

Many job seekers feel they need to add an explanation as to why they are without a job in their cover letter. Don't do that, said Paul DeBettignies, managing partner of Nerd Search, LLC (a Minneapolis IT search firm) and co-founder and coordinator of Minnesota Recruiters.

Joanne Meehl, a Twin Cities-based career and job search coach, agreed. In addition, do not use language like "I'm laid off" or "I'm in transition" or "I'm between jobs," said Meehl.

Instead, focus on who you are as a professional and what you bring to an employer.

"Talk about your successes, the positive impact you had on your last job, the enjoyment you get out of your field and your work," said Meehl. "All your marketing materials - your résumé, your LinkedIn profile, your networking info - should have this same tone, and should be about successes. Look past the layoff and toward what you will bring to your next company, and others will look past it, too."

When asked about this in an interview situation, a response such as this is effective, said Meehl:

"The company had to make some justifiably tough decisions and unfortunately let over 300 of us go. I was in the last wave of those layoffs because I was a strong contributor. I have energy that I am eager to put to use in your company in this position."

Remember, what matters is what you have to offer to an employer. Your network and contacts will take you seriously and will introduce you to their contacts, if you talk about what you are and what you offer, not what you used to be. If you were a marketing manager before you were laid off, you still are a marketing manager. Your layoff did not take that away from you. It only took away the job you had.

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