A part-time role. Does it help or hurt?

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Q: I had a successful career in financial services for over 16 years.  At the end of my 16 years, I accepted a severance package because my office was being closed down.  I was a manager for the last 6 years.  I accepted a severance package mainly due to personal reasons.  I wanted to spend more time with my young children. It has been five years since I left that job and I got my real estate license and sold properties on a part-time basis.  Now I plan to start looking for a new full-time job back in the financial services world.  My question is: do you think it is essential to include my part-time real estate career/experience in my resume? I was not very successful in real estate sales, and I am afraid by including it, it will hurt my chances with new employers.  However, if I don’t, then how should I address questions relating to the period I stayed home?

A: Congratulations on your decision to return to the field of financial services.  When applying for a new position, should you include your part-time real estate experience or omit it completely?  In short, a gap in any professional work experience is a yellow flag to a recruiter or hiring manager.  However, a gap because of raising children is explainable and not the yellow flag it once was.  Additionally, many employment application forms will ask you to fully disclose your complete job history for the past ten years.  Therefore, being forthcoming is required.  I think working on a part-time basis in real estate for five years demonstrates that you kept your finger in the workforce.  You should, however, be prepared to explain your performance in that field as well.  Although you say that you were not very successful, my sense is that the most successful realtors have built their business over time.  It takes time to establish relationships and to build a reputation in your community. This is true of many sales roles.  Perhaps time worked against you and may have been a factor. More importantly however, a prospective employer will be most interested in your experience in the most relevant field, which in your situation is financial services, and not real estate sales.  Assuming you enjoyed a successful track record in banking, this will be the most important part of your background to highlight when interviewing.  Past performance (especially in the same industry) is often an indicator of future success.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.