Many job seekers wonder if it is possible to get a job after a long career gap. It definitely is! But how do you explain it to potential employers?
You could have had a career break for many reasons. Perhaps you suffered a health crisis, or you left a job to take care of a family situation. The role of caregivers is more valued than in the past. Some job candidates list it on their resume as such. Obviously, they are coming from a place of confidence.
One past client lost a family member and helped support another family member with mental health issues at the same time. It was too much to handle while working full time. He felt there was no choice but to give up his job.
I asked how he felt about explaining this to hiring managers. Could he simply say he took a break to serve as caregiver and is now ready to return to work? He felt comfortable with this. No reason to explain the details. Many companies today have a family-friendly philosophy. They understand.
What to Say about a Job Gap on Your Resume
My recommendation is to be up front about your situation. Attempts to disguise it—or to try to explain it away as volunteer work—look transparent when you apply for jobs. You increase your chances of getting hired by being honest.
Don’t remove the gap from your resume, but don’t make it the first thing a hiring manager sees. Include strong headers and a rich summary section up front. Include anything pertinent you have done during the period. This is especially true if you have gained skills related to your job search.
Your timeline does not have to be linear. If you are a freelancer, you may show breaks when you were between contracts, but your overall job history shows you were self-employed during that time.
What to Say During the All-Important Interview
The purpose of a resume is to get you into an interview. While you are crafting yours, you have a chance to provide an overview of your skills and state what you bring to companies. This gives you a chance to prepare for the tough interview question you know is coming.
If you are hoping to find a job after a long break, think ahead to that conversation with a hiring manager. Be ready to explain anything you might have gained during the gap. And only put on your resume what you know you can speak about with confidence.
Tips to Taking Advantage of Job Opportunities
The longer you’re unemployed, the tougher it can be to get back into the job market. Use this time wisely by upgrading your skills. Maybe you don’t need a full college degree, but if you are a project manager, for example, getting certification in your field will make you more marketable.
Develop a growth mindset. Consider the skills you feel confident using right away, but also develop a second list of skills you’d like to learn. If you think you are out of date, realize that the person actually working in this field may need to learn the same skills.
Invest in yourself. This is especially true in technical fields. If you are searching for work in machine learning or full stack, for example, you may need an update. Also, be sure you use the latest terminology to say exactly what you mean.
While you are updating your skill set, don’t forget the technical skills needed by job seekers. For example, LinkedIn has new features. One allows you to respond to a recruiter with a voice recording. This brief audio clip allows you to convey emotion that an email or text can’t. You appear tech savvy. In just ten seconds, you’ve managed to stand out from all the other job seekers!
LinkedIn is a powerful tool for connecting with potential employers. Don’t take it for granted! Maximize your profile with a current, professional-looking headshot. Replace the generic banner with an image related to your aspirational field. Input all fifty skills and reach out for recommendations.
Make Yourself Findable
Take care with the keywords you’re using. Since you left the field, the name of your job might have changed. Do some research on this. Even if the differences are subtle, correct use improves your chances of getting the results you are looking for.
Work on Your Networking
Reconnecting with your network is a powerful strategy for getting back into the workplace after a gap. Reengage with people who worked with you before the break. They may have moved on to other positions. Lots of careers are made by following colleagues to different companies. That can be a great a shortcut.
A gap can get your resume on the bottom of the pile. A human being you worked with in the past saying, “Hey, I just want to introduce you to someone who is applying here,” can be just the boost you need.
Sources say 80 percent of available jobs are never advertised. This “hidden job market” can be accessed through networking. Check with friends, family, former co-workers for any possible openings. Reach out to trainers you’ve worked with in the past. They often hear of jobs from corporate connections.
Reset Your Goals
Create a list of companies you want to work at to inspire you when you feel down. A lot of people worry that they will have to take whatever position comes up. Not true! Put your attention on it, and you’ll come up with a number of companies that would be the perfect fit for you. They match your skills, your background, and your interests. You feel excited about having the opportunity to work there. This research can take your hunt to a new level. All the materials you prepare and everything you do to apply for these jobs will be more energized. And that comes across to hiring personnel.