Bridge the Gap and Connect to Hiring Managers
The dreaded employment gap strikes fear in the heart of many job seekers. There’s good news for you, you can effectively handle an employment gap on your resume (and on LinkedIn)! An employment gap is not the end of the world and, if handled well, won’t put the brakes on a recruiter phone call!
The biggest mistake I see people make in their job search marketing plan is avoidance. It’s important to address the ‘elephant in the room’ when it comes to gaps on your resume. Don’t avoid your career gap like it will go away. If you do, you allow negative assumptions to be made! There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Here’s how to potential questions head-on in your resume, on social media and in the interview with some of the top questions I get when it comes to employment gaps.
I took a career break to care for dependents – how do I get employers to take me seriously?
Whether you took time from work to rear children, care for ailing relatives or other family crises – that shows that you are a responsible person. There are several ways to address this type of gap:
Choose the Correct Words. Take care how you say what you say and you will avoid negative assumptions. Don’t apologize and tell your story! Here are some examples of what to say about a dependent care gap:
Children: “Career sabbatical to focus on household management and childhood care to support a well-rounded educational as well as developmental program for my dependents.”
Dependent Care: “Career sabbatical to provide comprehensive dependent care for an ailing parent to include financial coordination, healthcare program management and lifestyle support.”
Personal Illness: “Career sabbatical to focus on and recover from personal illness while managing healthcare programs to include coordinating financial matters.”
Keep Your Skills Fresh. If you are considering or currently taking a career break – be sure to keep up to date on your skills, certifications and industry trends. Make a point to attend professional organizational meetings, connect with a mentor, and take classes or volunteer. All of these will help you tremendously when it comes to relaunching your career!
Focus on Your Abilities. Instead of downplaying your role during your sabbatical, consider what types of skills you used. You will notice the words ‘developmental program’ and ‘financial coordination’ in the examples above. Don’t sneer at how hard it is to manage dependent care! You might be honing skills in project management, financials, communication, or even vendor management.
I’ve been separated from my previous employer for more than 4 months, how do I address this in my job search?
Employer separation career gaps are tough. Maybe you were laid off or maybe you had a bad boss and quit – it doesn’t matter. What matters to potential hiring managers is how you handle your employment gap without looking like you were sitting on your hands.
Be Active! It’s extremely important to stay active during your search for a full-time position in your career focus area. Here are some ways to stay fresh and demonstrate tenacity during your job search:
Volunteer Work – When you are employed, your volunteer work rests comfortably at the bottom of your resume or in a special section on LinkedIn. When you are between jobs: list the work you do as if it is a position on your resume and LinkedIn. However, if you are only volunteering at the local food bank once a month – you need to consider doing more for it to make a positive impression. Ideally, volunteer in a skill that will help you stay fresh in your career focus area.
Consulting, Coaching or Mentoring – At the risk of being overused, consulting is still a good way to stay current in your career as well as eliminate the dreaded employment gap. If you plan to consult, please provide actual consulting work or projects. You will be asked about it during your interview. The same goes with coaching or mentoring in your industry.
Take a Part Time Job – Career Coaches give varying advice here. But the fact of the matter is: if you need to pay the bills – take a job. Some job is better than no job and no place to live. Besides, working a part time job will often allow you to leverage some of the skills you need to remain fresh in your work.
I’m a retiree and I want to get back into the workplace, how can I overcome age-discrimination?
It is unlikely that you will overcome age discrimination if you are a retiree relaunching (unless you retired at a very early age, such as former military). You CAN however tell your story to engage the interest of potential employers. First, answer these questions:
1. Do you want to work part-time, full-time, or contract?
2. What’s your main focus: a fully-engaged contributor or a trainer, mentor, consultant or coach?
3. What, specifically, can you do to help your potential employer with their business needs and what skills/expertise/abilities will you leverage to do so?
Answer these three questions and you have the opening statement on your resume and 1/3 of the content in your cover letter. This is important because it tells the employer exactly what your expectations are while setting the stage for a focused and productive conversation. You are much more likely to be hired if you tell your story clearly and succinctly.
Bridge the Gap and Connect to Hiring Managers
It’s very important to tell your story and not be ashamed of your career gap. According to Carol Fishman Cohen, co-founder of iRelaunch in a fantastic interview with Kristin Maschka, do not apologize, but briefly acknowledge the career break and then immediately move on to why you are the best person for the job.