While supplemental information such as a cover letter, reference letters and writing samples certainly boost your résumé, unexplained gaps in employment may as well be highlighted with a border of tiny red flags.
When it comes down to it, employers look for hardworking, reliable and teachable candidates. Luckily, there are ways to fill employment deficits with educational experience that proves you are interested in a long-term position.
Periods of unemployment are more common than you may think. From taking time to travel the world and battling health issues to focusing on family, companies are aware that sometimes life gets in the way of nonstop, full-time commitment.
It’s also very common to come up a bit short when it comes to specific work experience. Perhaps you have 10 years of relevant employment, but you were never responsible for managing social media—a skill many other candidates were able to dabble in. Luckily, it’s never too late to supplement hands-on experience with education.
If you have found holes in your résumé due to lack of expertise or unemployment, enrolling in a continuing education course is a great way to set yourself up for success. Not only will you build your skillset, but you’ll also prove you are fully dedicated to self-improvement and professional growth.
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The Benefits of Ad Hoc Education
Taking initiative to hone expertise comes naturally to the ambitious. Here are a few of the major advantages of enrolling in part-time, night or online courses:
1. Range of options
From taking a weekly course at a conveniently located community college to enrolling in a traditional four-year program online, your options for achieving higher education are as diverse as ever. Whether you are interested in getting your doctorate or simply taking a course to improve your typing skills, you can find exactly what you need to fortify your résumé with educational experience.
Part-time and night classes are offered at a cost per credit so that you only pay for the classes you want or need. While online universities don’t usually offer drastic savings compared to traditional college, many costs are cut in other ways. Online students don’t need to commute, hire babysitters, or purchase class materials such as textbooks, since materials are distributed digitally by design.
Many universities accept credits earned through massive open online courses (MOOCs), which are either low-cost or completely free. MOOCs are user-based and perfect for fulfilling general education requirements. If you are interested in filling gaps in your résumé without making a formal commitment to education, check out a wide variety of options here.
3. Schedule flexibility
Online courses can be paused and returned to later, and studying can take place whenever students are able to carve out the time. While online classes are offered at virtually (pun intended) any time, night classes are ideal for parents of young children or anyone who has a large scheduling conflict but prefers the interpersonal education experience.
4. Greater ability to concentrate
Unfortunately, any learning environment can sometimes mimic a middle school classroom. When many people gather together in a limited space, distractions are inevitable. A huge benefit to online education is the ability to stay focused on the task at hand.
The social aspect of a classroom is not for everyone. Shy students, for example, may find it easier to participate in discussions through message boards or e-mailing the professor. Some students benefit from the slower pace of self-directed study. In fact, according to the Department of Education, the ability to spend more time on a task showed that “students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”
5. Improved computer skills
If you graduated from college more than a decade ago, you may be surprised to learn how technologically savvy today’s students are required to be. With many assignments being posted and turned in online, it’s impossible for modern scholars to squeak by with lax technological skills. Students are often expected to include audio/visual materials in assignments and participate in online discussions on a regular basis. These technical skills are extremely beneficial in today’s professional world. Feeling like a child thrown into a pool may be uncomfortable at first, but soon you’ll be swimming along instinctively with a vital skillset and the confidence to use it.
6. Personal and professional growth
Structured education is a breeding ground for critical thinking—a crucial and valued attribute of long-term employees. A self-directed student has the ability to recognize and cultivate his or her own strengths in order to succeed. Prioritizing tasks and finding a balance between getting an education and having a busy personal life builds character in a way that is invaluable to the professional environment. The discipline it takes to coordinate a hectic schedule and still meet deadlines is not lost on future hiring managers.
Taking online, part-time or night classes to further your professional goals is a lot of work, but the payoff is immense. Gaps in employment that are filled with ad hoc education shows prospective employers that you want to remain informed in order to confront challenges with innovative solutions once you return to the workforce. Your résumé will set you apart by highlighting your quest for personal and professional growth—all while demonstrating strong leadership skills for your team of one.