Recently, I have worked with some amazing job seekers by providing them with a free career counseling session, resume edits and cover letters. One question that came up a few times was how to handle career gaps.
I want to thank each of the job seekers for opportunity to travel their career seeking journey with them. It’s been such a pleasure working with them that I would like to offer two more FREE sessions during the month of June! What’s that about? Click here to check out the details.
OK, so how to deal with career gaps? First, define the reason. Basically there are two types of career gaps:
- Intentional gap? Did you intentionally take time off work to care for a loved one, start a business, go to school, illness, travel, volunteering, etc.?
- Unintentional gap? Laid off, company went out of business, could not find a job after school, could not find employment in your field, etc.?
Either gap can seem positive or negative at the time. But even the unintentional lay off or other job loss can have a positive outcome; provide time to add to your skill list or provide time to mentally focus, etc. The important thing is to focus on that positivity for your own well being and when talking to potential employers.
Next explain why. Both types of gaps offer explanations that employers are open to hearing about. Why? is the big question, but can be easily answered and even provide additional experience that the employer may be looking for. For example if you had a child and wanted to take a few years off that is not only understandable, but you also gained certain skills such as time management. And possibly additional experience by joining parenting groups (PTA, coaching, managing a charity drive, etc.), taking some classes during your time off, focusing on advancing your current skills, etc.
Maybe you took time off to start your own business or help someone else start one. There are skills learned with any business start up. Even if the business was not as successful as you had hoped or you found out you didn’t like the hours or type of work, you still have valuable skills to add to your resume. Examples of skills depending on the type of business could include; budgeting, inventory, scheduling employees, customer service, hiring, meeting deadlines, organizational skills, computer programs, writing, labor skills, and more.
Unintentional gap examples include being laid off or unable to find work in your field. Both are self explanatory and more common than you may think, but you can discuss HOW you handled this time off, how you turned a possible negative time into a positive situation. Did you learn new skills, enhance your current ones, etc.? Did you volunteer, take any classes, teach yourself a valuable skill, find a mentor, realize the career change you wanted, etc.?
A brief statement on your resume with the career goal you have now is an excellent way to highlight your gap. The cover letter will allow you to go into more detail and turn the gap into a positive opportunity to discuss your skills and experiences. Explaining the positive impact the gap had on you will help the employer focus on your skills, positive attitude and how your experiences will fit into the position you are applying for.
Whatever the reason a career gap can be presented as a valuable experience by highlighting your current skills and experiences while explaining your gap in a positive manner. Remember, the main focus of any interview is to discuss how you are the best fit for the current position you are applying for!
Questions about career gaps or other career topics? Please do not hesitate to reach out to me!
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