How to han­dle a gap in your job his­tory

Times of Oman - - RECRUI -

IN

the won­der­ful world of re­sume writ­ing and job searches, a gap in em­ploy­ment is a to­tally dif­fer­ent ball game. In fact, it’s one of the things that causes the most stress and fear in the hearts and minds of the job-seeker. Let me tell you why. Look­ing for a job in it­self is a full-time job. You are at a point in your life when you are at your most vul­ner­a­ble. Any­thing out of the or­di­nary on your re­sume will in­ten­sify that stress and fear. When you are stressed out, chances are you may not be think­ing as clearly or log­i­cally as you or­di­nar­ily would when life is great and things are rolling along.

But as they say, stuff hap­pens. Life hap­pens. So do lay­offs, new ba­bies, sick rel­a­tives, and a host of other oc­cur­rences that can re­sult in a sig­nif­i­cant gap in your re­sume. No mat­ter how dili­gent, hard­work­ing, and re­spon­si­ble you are, it is pos­si­ble that you may find your­self out of work for a sig­nif­i­cant pe­riod of time at some point in your ca­reer. The key point to re­mem­ber is not to let this gap in em­ploy­ment hurt you dur­ing your job search.

Just be­cause you are not work­ing does not mean that you can’t keep busy. Keep­ing busy does not mean spend­ing your days watching Dr Phil, Oprah, and Mon­tel (peo­ple do watch this guy)!

Keep­ing busy means stay­ing in­volved in your pro­fes­sion. In fact, it’s a lot eas­ier to re-en­ter the work­force if you keep your skills sharp and your job knowl­edge up-to-date.

Here are some sug­ges­tions to help you stay con­nected to your ca­reer while con­duct­ing your job search:

Find a con­sult­ing as­sign­ment or project. Many times, em­ploy­ees who are “in-be­tween” jobs supplement their knowl­edge (and in­come) by tak­ing a con­tract or con­sult­ing as­sign­ments. Some­times these as­sign­ments can re­sult in full-time, per­ma­nent po­si­tions.

Take a class in a sub­ject re­lated to your pro­fes­sion.

Vol­un­teer with an or­gan­i­sa­tion or be­come a men­tor.

Read trade jour­nals and at­tend sem­i­nars in your field of ex­per­tise.

Write an ar­ti­cle for a pub­li­ca­tion in your area of ex­per­tise. Many free­lance writ­ing as­sign- ments pay well.

Also be sure to main­tain your net­work of in­dus­try con­tacts.

A gap on a re­sume glares out at a re­cruiter or hir­ing man­ager. If you’ve spent your em­ploy­ment gap do­ing free­lance work, con­sult­ing, or men­tor­ing, be sure to list that ex­pe­ri­ence in the Pro­fes­sional Ex­pe­ri­ence sec­tion of your re­sume. In­clude the name of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, job func­tions, dates, and city and state. In other words, treat it as you would a reg­u­lar job!

Let’s look at the worst-case sce­nario. Your re­sume has a large gap. You may want to con­sider a func­tional re­sume as op­posed to a chrono­log­i­cal re­sume. But be fore­warned! A func­tional re­sume is a po­ten­tial red flag to em­ploy­ers be­cause it sug­gests that the job-seeker may have some­thing to hide, so use cau­tion be­fore us­ing a func­tional re­sume. Re­cruiters and hir­ing man­agers pre­fer chrono­log­i­cal re­sumes be­cause they are eas­ier to read and list skills and job func­tions as they ap­ply to each po­si­tion. A func­tional re­sume does not.

If you have an ex­ten­sive gap in em­ploy­ment, you may want to ad­dress it in your cover let­ter to the prospec­tive em­ployer. In­clude a brief one- or two-sen­tence ex­pla­na­tion, but do not go into de­tail about a long ill­ness or a frus­trat­ing job search.

Rather, state that you were out of the work­force for what­ever rea­son, and ex­plain that you are ea­ger to re­turn. If the gap in your em­ploy­ment hap­pened a long time ago, don’t bother men­tion­ing it at all. Em­ploy­ers are not in­ter­ested in what hap­pened in 1984!

Should the sub­ject of your em­ploy­ment gap come up dur­ing an in­ter­view, ex­plain why sim­ply and briefly. In other words, use the ex­act same brief, sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion you used in your cover let­ter. Ob­vi­ously, they were im­pressed enough with your back­ground (de­spite any gaps) to in­vite you in for an in­ter­view!

Re­gard­less of the rea­sons for your em­ploy­ment gaps, al­ways main­tain a pos­i­tive, op­ti­mistic at­ti­tude, and be sure to let the hir­ing man­ager know that you are ex­cited and ready to re­turn to work!

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