As the economy and consumer confidence steadily improve, we are slowly emerging out of the fiscal crisis of the last five years (wow, has it been that long?!). We’ve all had enough and, thankfully, we seem to be back on the upswing if rising home prices are any indication. An unfortunate consequence of weak labor markets is the gap between jobs that many now have on their resume. Many of you may be facing this situation for the first time and are understandably embarrassed or unsure about how to address a gap in your work history. Here are four tips that I give my clients that can help.
Tell the truth (but keep it positive)
Gaps happen. Even to the best employees. The best advice I can give is to simply tell the truth; however, does that mean you have tell a prospective employer everything? Obviously not. Keep any unsavory details out of any conversation and certainly do not include it on your CV. But if you have a gap due to a family illness, personal commitment, unplanned something, most employers will understand and should not count that against you especially if you offer a certain skill or value proposition that he or she is looking to add to an organization.
Keep months off of your resume
Minimize the length of a gap that you have on a resume by omitting months from your work history. Showing just the year from when you started and ended a role is sufficient. Most employers don’t pay too much attention to dates on the resume if you’ve been with someone for more than a few years. This approach automatically buys you time, which can be more valuable than you think.
Highlight learning opportunities
Proving that you didn’t waste your time during a gap period on your resume is the antidote to any anxiety you might feel about it. As you initiate your job search, fill your day with interesting activities to stimulate your mind. Sign up for a class online or audit a class at a local college to get up to build a new skill that you can use in a future role. Have no idea what WordPress is or what wysiwyg means? Now’s the time to find out! You might even find that going back to school is exactly what you need to open yourself up to a new career path with the people you’ll meet.
Your severance period counts as employment
If you were laid off and received a severance payment you can still be considered a compensated employee of your organization through the end of that severance period. A typical package may cover you for three to six months and again can minimize a potential gap. Based on the feedback I’ve received from my clients in the market, job searches that take longer than six months are definitely becoming more common; a gap less than that time frame shouldn’t get you dinged as easily as years prior. Knowing that your severance period still counts as “employment” can ease your mind as well when impatience kicks you in the gut.
Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.