Do you have a gap in employment on your resumé? Extended absences from the workforce or gaps in your employment history can feel like a black mark on your otherwise spotless record. While they can be a red flag to your would-be employer, they do not have to hold you back in your career. Many employees forgo formal employment for a season for various reasons, including personal illness, caring for a loved one, pursuing self-employment, volunteering, or travel.
Deciding to re-enter the workforce and resume full-time employment can feel overwhelming. However, taking deliberate steps to prepare yourself and your resumé for this momentous occasion can help set you up for success in your job search.
1. Evaluate Your Situation
If you have been absent from the workplace for an extended period, likely, you are not the same person today that you were when you left. The job you had then may not be one that you would enjoy now or even one that would fit your current lifestyle.
Determining what type of employment will be best for you will require you to consider your current needs and wants. Have your interests changed since your last job? Are you still able to travel? Do you need a flexible schedule to accommodate family responsibilities? What type of work do you find most satisfying? Your answers to these questions will guide you to search for a job that will be fulfilling and compatible with your personal life.
2. Update Your Resumé
With a job hunt on the horizon, it’s time to dust off your old resumé. Review your education, skills, accomplishments, and job history. Is it still relevant in today’s job market? Sadly, some skills, especially those in technology fields, can quickly become outdated if you don’t use them. To strengthen your resumé, you may want to consider taking a refresher course or enrolling in a certification program to update your skills. Before you do, talk to others in your industry to find out what skills and abilities employers are looking for in new hires. Focus your efforts on becoming proficient in those areas.
While your resumé should show that you are qualified for the specific position you are applying for, don’t discount transferable skills you have developed over time. As the name suggests, these skills transfer from one job to another regardless of the field of work. Transferable skills can be hard skills such as writing or data analysis. They can also include soft skills like problem-solving, management, and communication. Many individuals continue to develop or hone these skills even while not gainfully employed. Be sure to include skills learned by volunteering in the community or other roles.
3. Review, Update, and Create Social Media Profiles
Social media accounts are at the center of our personal, social, and professional lives, and your profiles give employers a quick snapshot of who you are and whether or not you are the right candidate for the job. According to a 2020 survey conducted by The Harris Poll, 71% of hiring decision-makers believe that checking the social media accounts of job applicants is an effective way to screen them. Additionally, one in every five is not likely to consider applicants who do not have an online presence.
Creating and maintaining a positive social media presence that accurately reflects who you are is vital to your application. Your preparation for this eventuality should begin long before you submit your resumé. If you don’t have a social media account, consider starting one. Aimed at helping business professionals network, LinkedIn is a great place to start. Create a profile, enter your work experience and start connecting with mentors, peers, and employers. It is important to future employers that your account be active and show maturity and professionalism.
4. Update Your Contacts
Word of mouth is a great way to find out about employment opportunities. Reach out to friends, neighbors, and past coworkers. Let them know you are interested in finding a job. There is a good chance that one of them will be able to send a lead on an exciting opportunity.
Now is also an excellent time to expand your network of contacts. Consider joining professional associations, attending networking events, and going to conferences. While you are there, get to know others who are working in the industry you want to be in. Get to know them and ask to meet their contacts. The more people you know, the more resources you will have to find your perfect job.
5. Start Small
Jumping back into a full-time job is a challenging transition. It can be mentally and physically taxing. Be patient with yourself. You learned to do it before and can do it again. In the meantime, you may find it easier to start slow by accepting a part-time, freelance, or volunteer position. All these options will allow you to refine your skills and get your feet wet while contemplating what you want in a permanent full-time position.
Applying for a position with a temp agency is also a good option. Temp-to-hire positions allow applicants to try their hand at a job before committing to it fully. This option is especially attractive to those moving from one industry to another.
6. Prepare for the Interview
It may feel awkward answering interview questions with a friend. However, searching for an appropriate answer during an interview with a professional job recruiter can have lasting consequences. Ask a former coworker, spouse, or mentor to help you prepare. Practice answering questions that are likely to arise in the interview, including the elephant in the room. “Can you explain this gap in your employment?” Be prepared to confidently explain what you did during that time and why you chose not to be employed. Your answer can include skills you developed during that time off and how they will help you in the position.
Regardless of how long or why you have been out of the workforce, there is a path back to full-time job success and satisfaction. For many, the journey begins with determining the path and then taking the proper steps to set themselves up for success.
Long periods of unemployment or gaps in your employment history may seem to reflect poorly. Although they could turn off potential employers, they don’t have to prevent you from advancing in your profession. Many workers choose not to work formally for a variety of reasons, such as sickness, caring for a loved one, pursuing self-employment, volunteering, or traveling.