Steps to overcome a blemish on your resume

It takes hard work and persistence to land that job, a bigger paycheck or climb the ladder in your career.

CLEVELAND - At WKYC we are continuing our commitment to jobs in Northeast Ohio and to helping you take that next step no matter the obstacles in your way. 
 
One of those obstacles may be a black mark on your resume. It could be a long stretch of unemployment, getting fired from your last job, or a criminal record. Whatever problems are holding you back, we are going to show you how to make them work for you. 
 
"I have younger children, so I had to make it work for them," said Chris Tatum, who found himself stuck in a dead-end job. Tatum knew he was capable of more, but a non-violent felony on his record haunted his professional life. "They know you need this job, so they are really kind of doggish towards you. It's not fair," added Tatum who channeled his frustration into action and reached out for help. 
 
"You just have to work with somebody that's going to help bring out their potential, to build their confidence," said Betty Holnapy who is a career coach with the Cleveland non-profit, Towards Employment.  She has helped thousands of people like Chris who are facing barriers to good paying jobs. 
 
Whatever your employment hurdle, Holnapy says don't hide from it. Be ready to explain that gap in employment or previous job loss in a concise, straightforward way.

Talk about what you learned from the experience and how you are a better employee today. "Be honest, talk about what you learned from the termination, and how you can rise above it and be a good candidate for the new employer," Holnapy stressed. 
 
Have you strengthened your computer skills? Taken management training? Or have you added a new certification in your career? Make sure the potential employer knows the steps you've taken and what new skills you can bring to their company. 
 
Chris Tatum took the step of getting his black mark erased. Towards Employment helped Chris work to get his record expunged.  The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland also offers expungement clinics. 
 
Lengthy gaps in work can be filled in with volunteer work or continuing education programs. And if you are returning to work after an extended leave, show how you've kept up to date with changes in your industry. 
 
Chris saw an opportunity in manufacturing and Towards Employment helped him get in a training program that landed him a job. He's since gotten two raises. "It's only going to work if you make it work," he believes. 
 
Here are 6 tips for managing that blemish on your resume:
  1. Don't lie. It can be tempting to cover up past personal or professional mistakes. Experts say it's okay to avoid the topic unless it comes up. Then handle it as professionally and concisely as possible. 
  2. Practice makes perfect. You don't want to stumble if any of those questions come up. So practice before you the the interview. 
  3. Accentuate the positive.  Move the conversation to what you've learned from your past mistakes. Are you a better manager now? Have you improved your computer skills? How have you improved? 
  4. Move on from a bad breakup: When asked about a negative prior work experience, don't place blame or get too in-depth about sharing your side of the story. Keep your explanation simple and concise. You don't want to come across as bitter no matter what. 
  5. Let Go vs. Fired: Use "let go" rather than "fired" in an interview. And focus on your accomplishments rather than the negatives of your past work history. 

Blemishes on your resume should not be a significant issue if you have the qualifications for the job, have shown growth in your professional development and you are enthusiastic about the position. 


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