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Resume Help/The challenge re-entering after 13 years


I have a resume and have even gotten a few interviews; no winners yet.  I haven't been employed for 13 years I do have a few volunteering jobs.  I am not sure who to put as a reference as I have no clue where my ex-boss's are. I haven't volunteered since 2011.  Reason's for absence, are children and taking care of my elderly/blind Gram.  I am seeking social service type jobs as I am B.S.W.  Thank you!

Hi Adreanna,

Your situation is, unfortunately, not unusual.  In the midst of the economic downturn a year or two ago, a large majority of employers I surveyed told me they would not even consider hiring a person who had been unemployed for more than six months. I know that isn't exactly good news but it might explain why you haven't gotten hired yet.  The fact that you have gotten some interviews suggests that at least some employers are willing to consider you, and that is a good sign.

I usually tell my clients that if (1) they are not getting interviews, the problem is usually with their resume; but, if (2) they are not getting call backs after interviewing, it could be that you are not interviewing as strongly as you might.  That could be a larger problem (if true) than not having recent references.

But since your question is about references, the best advice I can give you is to think of individuals who have the most recent knowledge of your work skills and qualifications.  They don't necessarily need to be previous supervisors, but they should be someone who has first-hand knowledge of your work.  How about co-workers?  Did you stay in touch with any of them?  What about people in the volunteer positions from a couple of years ago?  Would any of them make credible references?  If there are simply no people who are familiar with your work habits and history, you may just have to explain that fact when you interview (as I am guessing you have been doing).

If you want to consider it, you can write me at the address below and tell me about a couple of the interviews you have had.  The more information you can give me, the better.  What were some of the questions?  How did you respond?  Tell me everything you can ... how did you dress for the interview?  Try to recall your body language and the body language of the interviewer(s) as best you can.  Any questions give you trouble?  Do you recall if you had a serious "brain freeze" on anything?

When I have interviewed in the past (covering a longer time span than I care to think about) I can almost always trace my failure to get a job back to a single moment; usually that moment came when I did not respond as I should have to an interview question.  Over the years I learned a lot from those failures and that is part of what I incorporate into my workshops, my consultations with individual clients, and what I use in my writing.

Normally when I do workshops for job seekers (a large part of my activity) we have mock interview sessions where I ask individual members typical job questions and then critique their responses.  Since I have no way to do that with you, whatever you can tell me about your experience might help me to give you a better insight on the process as you have experienced it.

Hope this helps; I'll look forward to your email.

Best wishes,  

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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