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Handling Employment Gaps

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This career article by Nathan Newberger gives job seekers some important pointers on handle gaps in their work history.

Being unemployed is a difficult and stressful situation. To make matters even worse, the fact that you may not currently have a job can prevent you from finding a job. It is unfair, but true. Having gaps in your employment history are often an immediate turn off for recruiters and interviewers; however, with a little bit of creativity, you can make those gaps disappear.

This month's newsletter explains the 4 steps to handling gaps in your employment history. Don't let being out of work keep you out of work.

These following four methods will be covered:

  • Find Real Gaps
  • Fill In Gaps
  • Dodge Resume Gaps
  • Mention Major Gaps


4 TIPS TO HANDLE EMPLOYMENT GAPS!


1) FIND REAL GAPS

The first mistake many people make is to assume the worst when it comes to being out of work. Not having a job does not mean you have an employment gap. There are many legitimate reasons for not working. These reasons can be addressed directly without any worry.

The most common explanations of unemployment that should NOT be considered employment gaps are:

  • Attending school
  • Having/taking care of children
  • Personal health problems
  • Serious Illness in the Family
  • Being between jobs for a short period of time (less than 6 months)


2) FILL IN GAPS

If your bout with unemployment does not fall into one of the categories listed above, you most likely have an official gap in your employment history. Even at this point, you do not necessarily have to let a potential employer know about this gap.

By keeping busy while you are between jobs, you can turn a would-be gap into a learning experience. Consider using the following tactics to fill those gaps:

  • Take a class related to your profession. Being in school accounts for your time off, and employers like to see people bettering themselves through education.
  • Look for freelance or consulting projects. These jobs are not permanent, but they do ensure that you keep up-to-date with your skills. You can put this type of work on your resume as if it were any other kind of job.
  • Volunteer for an organization. Getting paid would be ideal, but future employers are concerned with your work experience. To a recruiter, a volunteering position can be just as good as a paying job.
  • Read trade journals. Though this method may not be something you put on your resume, it will help you stay current with the industry. Conveying the newest information possible in an interview shows that you have not lost your knowledge of the business.


3) DODGE RESUME GAPS

Not everyone will be able to find a creative way to fill the gaps in their employment history. If you find yourself in this situation, it is no longer an issue of proving your time was occupied. Instead, you should focus on the fact that you are still skilled and qualified.

However, most resumes focus on time by addressing experiences chronologically. Consider using the following suggestions to draw attention away from your time between jobs:

  • Don't distinguish between paid and unpaid work on your resume. This way you can have a seemingly continuous string of jobs, even if you volunteered for the sake avoiding an employment gap.
  • Use only years (not months) when listing work dates on your resume. This can discretely cover several months of unemployment.
  • Summarize what you did while you did not have a job. It may seem awkward to put this kind of information directly on your resume, but it is more important to let recruiters know you used your time wisely.
  • Use a functional resume. Unlike the traditional chronological resume, a functional resume puts less emphasis on the timing of work experiences. Instead, a functional resume emphasizes skills, which employers care more about.


4) MENTION MAJOR GAPS

The last important step in handling employment gaps is deciding when to discuss them. Unless you can completely hide the gap, a recruiter will eventually spot it. If you are prepared to address the issue, you can avoid a potential disaster.

There are basically 2 schools of thought on this issue: address an employment gap in your cover letter or address it in the interview. Neither approach is wrong; neither approach is right. It is a matter of personal taste. Just consider these points before deciding, which approach you use:

  • In a cover letter, make your explanation very brief. A one or two-sentence long explanation is enough. Details are not important.
  • If a gap occurred a long time ago, don't bother mentioning it in a cover letter. Employers are concerned with your recent work, not something that happened 10 years ago.
  • In an interview, still keep your explanation brief. The only reason to go into deeper detail is if you gained valuable experiences during your employment gap.
  • No matter what, END ON A POSITIVE NOTE. Whether you address the gap in a cover letter or an interview, state that you are ready and excited to get back to work.


CONCLUSION

Hopefully, these steps will give you ideas on how to handle your own employment gaps. It's a difficult task to do, but it is also one of the most valuable. Having employment gaps shouldn't keep you from finding a job, but only you can stop the cycle from repeating itself.

About The Author
Nathan Newberger is the job and career expert at www.WorkTree.com. Nathan has over 10 years of experience in staffing and human resources. He has worked both as a recruiter and career counselor. Mr. Newberger has been the Managing Editor at www.WorkTree.com for the past 5 years and his articles have helped thousands of job seekers.

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