How to Handle a Short-term Job on Your Resume

A reader writes:

2008 has been a strange year for me. I was laid off in January then found another job in April with a new company and was laid off just the other week. How should I address this on my resume and in interviews? Is it better to have a gap on your resume or to have a short term job? I guess both need to be explained but which one is more palatable

This is a great question because it’s a situation faced by many people in the current climate. My answer is always to err on the side of openness and transparency. You did nothing wrong. You were not fired. Like lots of other people, you were simply a victim of a tough economic climate. And trust me, you are not alone in having one or two short-term jobs on your resume. The days of 5-10-year stints with one company as the norm are long behind us.

So, first I would say definitely include the position and write about it as convincingly as you wrote about your other positions (for help in doing this, check out my free ecourse). Second, you might consider adding a ‘reason for leaving’ to each of your positions. This is optional and there is no right or wrong, but if you have never been fired, it\’s an option (If you have ever been fired, obviously this wouldn’t be a good tactic!) If you do decide to include this, keep it factual. Say something like ‘downsizing due to market downturn’ as opposed to ‘laid off because my boss is an idiot who didn’t know what he was losing.’ (Hey, I know it sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised!)

Even if you don’t cover this in your resume – and you really don’t have to – you can address it in a cover letter or cover email. Keep the tone positive (“I loved my last position and made some good contributions, but unfortunately a market downturn forced my employer to make cutbacks”) and then move quickly on to why you want this particular position.

Finally, in interview again be honest and upbeat. Focus on how much you enjoyed the work (if you did) and what contributions you made. Never sound angry or resentful, no matter how reasonable a reaction that might be. Potential employers will respond to your positive outlook on a tough situation.

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