Q: I was laid off in late 2008. I did some contract and temp work in 2009 and into 2010. Should I put this work on my resume even though it was not directly related to what I want to do? It is in the same industry. I am not sure how to best present this information. Or should include it at all?
A: Congratulations on finding interim work during a very challenging economic climate. In most instances, I would recommend including the interim work, especially if it is in the same industry.
Let's look at your situation from an employer's perspective. Gaps in a candidate's employment history are often yellow flags. They often trigger questions on why the candidate was unemployed. If the gap was significant, some employers grow a bit more concerned. This concern becomes greater if the candidate has skills that are in demand. Employers will ask, "If ABC is such a hot skill, why has Jane unemployed for 6 months?"
To reduce an employer's fears, I would recommend including this temp and contract work on your resume. As I have mentioned, it will hopefully eliminate the yellow flag that I have discussed. Additionally including these roles also demonstrate a sense of work ethic that I think many employers are looking for when they interview candidates. You could have remained on the "sidelines" during that period of time. You didn't though. You landed one or more interim roles. This signals to employers that you have a strong work ethic.
You may have developed some new professional contacts while working within your industry. These contacts are very valuable. Networking is still the best route to landing a full-time role. Networking with professional contacts within your industry is even more desirable.
Further, it sounds like you may have had the opportunity to work in a new area within your industry. New skills and/or skills that are in demand may be of great interest to a potential employer within your industry. These newly acquired skills may open up a whole new area for you to target. The scope of your job search has most likely changed since you were laid off in 2008. These newly acquired skills could improve your employability tremendously.
The economy is slowly improving. The job market, in Boston and elsewhere, is opening up. Be an active job seeker. Get out there and continue to build your network. Use available resources like LinkedIn, MeetUp groups, professional and alumni associations, your friends, family members and neighbors, faith-based groups as well as any informal groups to which you may belong (e.g., a softball league, a book club etc.). Make sure that your resume is crisp, error-free and presents your work history in a positive light. Including your temporary and contract work will definitely reduce some concerns about your employability.
Lastly, remember to continue to invest in your network. Job seekers often network well. The key though it to continue to maintain and invest time in your professional network even when you are employed.