As any job seeker that has been unemployed for an extended period of time will tell you, the biggest challenge they face is dealing with gaps in their resumes. These gaps could happen for a number of reasons: unable to find work, raising a family, caring for sick relative, taking time off for various reasons, etc…. The problem is that despite many employers having gone through these situations themselves, many see these gaps as liabilities and view them differently from when they were on your side of the desk.
Fair or unfair, that’s the way life is. So what can you do to close some of these gaps? Here are three ways that you can use these gaps to your advantage.
Start a business:
Yes, easier said than done but this is an excellent way to keep your skills sharp, keep your mind positive, bring in income and eliminate that big gap on your resume. Even if you do pro bono work for friends or family to build your portfolio, you’re doing something positive which will help you when you land interviews. Doing productive work while you’re seeking employment will affect your attitude and your confidence during a job interview.
Going back to school is great thing to do while the economy is suffering. You’re not only learning more, but you’ll have better access to finding work because most colleges and universities have job placement programs. Plus, college is an excellent place to network (and most students in graduate programs are employed). And while an advanced degree isn’t necessary for many jobs, it’s definitely a plus.
Go on sabbatical:
While this is still a good way to close a gap in your resume, the other two methods are preferable to this one. If you choose this route, you need to explain it carefully. What I recommend is that you say that you’ve worked extremely hard over the last several years without a lot of time for vacations and travel, and wanted to use this time to explore some new places as well as focus on personal growth. It’s better than saying “I didn’t want to bother with a job search because the market was bad.” Just stress the fact that you wanted to do it now while you could as you anticipate working hard at your next job.
Now there are several other legitimate reasons for not finding work but many of them make you look bad. Again, whether or not it’s fair taking time off to raise children or care for a sick relative make a potential employer feel that you have too much going on outside of work. Getting ill or injured may make the employer wonder about your health issues. And not being able to find anything just, well, it’s like being the only one not asked to the prom. Life isn’t always fair, even to good people, so always be careful with how you present yourself. These days, employers are looking more for reasons to eliminate someone from the pool of candidates rather than finding ways to match your qualifications to their opening.