Is it possible to get a job after an extended break from work? Yes, definitely! It may not be easy, but it can be done.
Hot or Not Hot
Two big factors to consider are what field you are in and how high the demand is for what you do. Say you are in a hot career, like a technical position, such as a full stack developer or project developer. Surprisingly, overcoming an employment gap in fields like these can be lots easier than you think.
If you’re in an industry that’s not in the highest demand or is very competitive, you could face more challenges. The message here is to manage your expectations going into your job hunt. Some tips: Know that it’s not going to happen overnight. Take control of your part in the process. Keep a positive attitude.
You can measure the temperature of your industry through research. It really pays to check out newspapers or online sources for current, relevant articles. Keep up with both the news and what’s being said among your trusted and reliable sources for information.
Changes in Hiring
The workplace was very much affected by the pandemic. Healthcare and education now face incredible churn where employees drop their contracts or don’t return to them. The same goes for HR, with recruiters themselves being recruited away from their desks. Seekers are finding jobs in media and publishing quicker than usual if their networks are strong. The hospitality industry has not entirely recovered, but the event industry is picking up with associations scheduling conferences again. The cottage industries that surround these events are starting to recover, too. It all bodes well.
The Value of Your Network
The pandemic changed the face of networking, moving much of it online. In-person networking is slowly rebooting. People are feeling more comfortable meeting face to face. Meet and greets are starting to take place again. There are even hybrid get togethers—part online and part in person. While there are lots of good new options for connecting with others, only time will tell what the future holds.
All this turmoil brought LinkedIn to the forefront in professional communications. It’s great for quick, efficient networking and for keeping up with former colleagues, meeting new people, and tracking the trends in your industry.
I recommend LinkedIn as a great first step for you if you aren’t already putting it to use. The platform is great for introverts who aren’t big fans of shaking hands and greeting people the old-fashioned way, or for busy professionals. Establish yourself there and put it to use as a daily practice. Give yourself short assignments to improve your network by reaching out to one new person a week. Add something to your profile or fit a post into your schedule every day.
Of course, my biggest networking tip: do it before you need to. Don’t just do it when you need a job. And always think about networking as a two-way street. If you expect to receive resources, contacts, and referrals, think about what you have to give first.
Don’t Forget about Training
The biggest secret to handling a gap—especially in on-trend fields—is having your skills be current up to the day. If you are sitting on the fence about investing in your skills, consider your industry. Is it the type where further training or certification matters a lot? Project management certification, web development credentialing, degrees, or CPA certification for those in financial services—all these can be had through online courses. They make you more marketable, and they fill in empty time periods on your resume at the same time.
If you just hope that you’ll get hired after a gap without refreshing your skills, then you’re going to need a great network. You need somebody to go to bat for you. Let’s say you’ve done great work in the past and stayed connected with your business associates. You’re all set! But if you haven’t stayed connected with your network, that can be fixed. You can go back and reconnect with them now.
Some candidates expect their new employer to hire them and invest in training for the job. But the world of work is not always like that anymore. Full-time employees within companies run across the same thing. They often find their employer is not ready to pay for training. They are better off taking care of this themselves than letting important certifications and upgrades lapse.
Explain the Gap
Back to that employment gap—how long is too long? At what point do you start to be concerned that your job search is not going to end happily? Lots of people get discouraged after a career break, even before they fill out that first job application. But there’s no need for that.
Explaining a career gap when you apply for jobs doesn’t have to be difficult. Discuss any work you’ve done, even in a volunteer or contract capacity. Talk about the reason for the gap. Gaps are becoming more common, so just prepare yourself to answer questions straight out during job interviews.
Speak in a professional tone if you served as a caregiver or stay-at-home parent. Be aware that other reasons for gaps may be interesting to future employers. If you’ve traveled or spent time abroad, you have gained a cultural understanding that might be valuable to them.
Don’t pretend the gap is not there. And don’t try to format it away from your resume by using a functional format. Just leave your resume in the chronological format showing the years’ gap. The honesty can pay off, perhaps resulting in your finding an employer who understands work-life balance—which is something we all want!
For graduates who are underemployed, list every position you’ve had so far. All work has value, and if nothing else, any job can be a way to gain important soft skills. If you have truly done no work at all, describe your education as if it were work experience. List any projects, collaborations, and presentations that were related to the job you want. Mention your GPA if it’s decent.
While you wait for full-time employment, look for contract or part-time work. You’ll prove your worth to employers and might get hired full time.
Develop yourself professionally, maintain a strong network, pay it forward, and say yes to new opportunities!
To get your job hunt off to a great start, contact me for a career jump-start session!