After my divorce in September of 2007, it became apparent to me that in order to achieve a higher standard of living (and to one day take care of elderly parents), I would have to acquire specialized skills. I had a bachelors degree in journalism, which I put to good use in the area of editing, proofing, research, and writing in a variety of areas for 15 years -- mainly in statutory law. However, I had reached an impasse with respect to salary. Therefore, I went back to college to complete an intensive one-year certification in the area of paralegal studies, graduating in December of 2008. I know I took a big chance doing this; I used my retirement savings and, through merit scholarships, was able to live lean and complete the course of study with honors.
I have worked with various staffing agencies and recruiters, all who tell me that this one-year gap is unacceptable, and that I should "put something down." However, I did not work during this time, with the exception of a little bit of contract work in the area of report writing for an unrelated field. I find it unethical to fabricate experience on my vitae.
I find it ironic that American workers are told to "retrain;" however, when we do and this creates a gap in work history, it is viewed as a negative. I have had a few legal job interviews since December. Also hindering my efforts is the fact that all of the new jobs for paralegals require numerous years of practical experience -- which I do not yet have. This seems to be true for almost every area of expertise these days. I am currently seeking the same type of employment I did before I went back to college, and have had a lot more success in getting interviews.
Re-training/re-education, particularly for us in an "undesirable age group" (over 40) created far more problems than I could have possibly imagined. I feel that if the country were not in a serious economic recession, circumstances might be more favorable. But I would highly advise anyone going into a new field to take all of this into consideration. One can go back to school and get a certification or license to be a plumber, teacher, therapist, or chef, but if there are few or no entry-level jobs available, it will do that person absolutely no good, and in fact, will act in detriment rather in favor.
I have a few suggestions for your resume:
1. In your work history, list your one gap like this:
2007-2008, Student, Paralegal Certification Program, Name of School
2. If you apply for a paralegal position, Move your Education to the top of the resume (right under your job objective), and list your paralegal certificate first.
This should take care of the gap issue on your resume.