How to Handle a Gap in your Employment History
With difficult economic circumstances, more people than ever have long gaps in employment. Find out how to make yourself sound appealing to prospective employers nonetheless.
Explaining Gaps in your Employment
Just because there are gaps in employment, does not mean your life has gaps. Times change. Thankfully, it is more understood now that just because a person's employment ended on the 31st of a month does not mean he or she continued employment on the first of the following month.
While it can be difficult to maintain a smooth employment history in today's environment, this is not a green flag for simply doing nothing at all. There are different reasons for becoming unemployed; some are by choice, while others aren't.
Explaining a gap in your employment is done two ways: on your resume and in person during your job interview. Whether on paper or in person, the gaps need to have a positive explanation and show that you used skills, or better yet, acquired new ones.
On your resume, make sure that the dates follow each other. For example, if your last day of employment was on March 31, but did not return to work until December 1, you need to have a column labeled April 1 until November 30.
What do you put in that gap? First of all, be honest, but put a positive spin on it. For example, if you were taking care of your kids in that time, you could say you were "enhancing your children's education". If you participated in school activities, you could put down "volunteered for public organization". Even if those activities only took up a small fraction of the time, it does not matter. They fill the blank and that is what matters.
If you spent this time simply job searching, you could add the following: "participated in career enhancing activities". Even if you only spent 10% of your time doing this and the other 90% lying on the couch watching TV, it does not matter. Of course you want to omit the couch part, and just list the types of training you took. The good thing about drawing unemployment benefits is that the organizations usually make you participate in classes, so you don't have to look far to filling in the gaps.
However, once you make it to job interviews, be mentally prepared to discuss more in-depths on what you did. Rehearse this at home; even write out bullet points on what you want to say. A prospective employer will want to know that you filled time constructively. Let them know what you learned in that time. Even if you filled some of your off time surfing the net (and who doesn't), you can create a positive scenario around this. You could say you enhanced your computer skills during your downtime and increased your typing ability.
It all comes down to how you look at things, and remember to be prepared and rehearse what you will say. If you stammer your way around why you have a gap in employment, this will not make you look good. Present yourself with confidence and you will make a good impression.
If you are in between jobs now, try to spend some of your downtime with some kind of volunteering. Volunteering does not only enhance your skills and fills gaps on your resume; it also enhances your life.