I Have an Employment Gap–How do I Handle It on My Resume?

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Maybe you quit. Maybe you were asked to leave. It doesn‘t really matter now. What does matter is what you do with the resume gap. How you handle the gap depends upon what you do during that interim time.

Clients who come to see me when they are out of work typically fall into one of two basic categories:

  1. Those who are intently interested in finding work immediately; and
  2. Those who are seeking overall career direction and aren’t in an immediate rush to find work.

In both cases, most people are acutely aware of and concerned about resume gaps. Those in the first group generally say that they need to put 100% of their available time into job hunting and they can’t afford to do anything else. Those who fall into the latter category are typically a bit more open to suggestions for gap-fillers that don’t directly involve applying for jobs. However, I believe the best path forward is similar for both groups. Following are three suggestions for filling the resume gap that I believe work well, regardless of which category you fall into.

Volunteer at Something Meaningful

When you’re working full time, it’s often hard to find the time to volunteer. Now’s your chance. Even if you are taking a much-needed break as a ski bum for six months, find a cause and give it some of your time. Think it through. What’s meaningful to you? Maybe it’s a disease-related charity, or a veterans’ or children’s charity. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s something you feel passionate about. And, here’s the cool part: not only will volunteering give you something to put on your resume and discuss during future interviews, but you will meet and possibly network with a whole new group of people and, perhaps, gain a new skill or two in the process.

Work For A Start-Up

A client who is currently looking for full-time employment recently told me about a compelling start-up whose services he thought might be useful to me. I read the promotional materials and suggested, in addition, that he offer his services to that company in return for equity. He readily agreed to contact the company with that suggestion. For those looking for resume gap fillers, this might even be a step better than the volunteer idea, because you can list it as paid employment. As with volunteer work, you will meet new potential contacts and, who knows, the work might even turn into a paid position at some point. I know what you’re thinking. . . how can I find a start up? Many cities have what are called “company incubators.” Google that term and see what you come up with.

Go Back To School

Whether you have a specific educational goal in mind or not, going back to school can be a great way to enhance your marketability and fill that resume gap. Learning something new can be energizing, and a return to the classroom may also be a source of new friendships and potential business contacts.

Clients have asked me whether, for the additional education to be valuable as a resume gap filler, the training must be in their current field. My answer is, “not necessarily.” Going back to school for anything demonstrates initiative and a willingness to learn, both of which are qualities that will help you shine in an interview. So, if you are between jobs and you’ve always wanted to study a certain period of European history, then find a course and take it. Explain it to a potential employer in a way that will highlight your curiosity and commitment to learning new things, which should impress upon him or her that you’ve spent your time wisely.

Do you think you don’t have the time to do any of the above because, “looking for a job is a full-time job?” I’d argue that any of the above suggestions will accelerate your job search and make it more rewarding. If you want to discuss resume gaps, email me at bob@epi.coach or call 301-520-9511.

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