“Mind the gap!”
Even if you’ve never used the London Underground, you’ve probably heard this phrase reminding you to be mindful of the dangerous gap between the train and platform. If you fall through, you may never be heard from again (pleasant thought, right?).
A gap in your employment history can be just as intimidating:
- If you’ve been out of work for a while, it’s natural to doubt your abilities. You may feel as though you’ll never find another great job.
- Gaps in your resume can be viewed as a red flag. With little other compensating information to offset spotty employment, recruiters could potentially assume the worst about your job performance and/or reliability.
COVID-19 is to Blame for Many Employment Gaps
For many people living in the aftermath of COVID-19 or in areas where the disease is still rampant, a resume gap is an unavoidable reality. Some employers get it and are eager to be part of the solution; others seem to have developed amnesia about what the past year and a half has been like for most people.
Many People Rethought Their Career Choices
Some were able to work from home or were considered essential workers and did not face the same employment gaps as others. If you are in this category, you may now be considering new opportunities if you felt underappreciated or had time to rethink your career choices. In that case, tips for resume gaps may also apply for career changers, so read on.
Several Factors Caused COVID-19-related Employment Gaps
Some lost jobs because their employer did not have enough work to keep them on the payroll. Others spent the last year recovering from the virus or caring for sick loved ones. Still, others had no daycare options for young children or school-age children who shifted to remote classes.
If you’re ready to get back to work, what’s the best way to address your resume gap?
- Don’t panic. Resume gaps are not new. Even apart from the recent global pandemic, employers realize there are several valid reasons for resume gaps: maternity/paternity leave, career change, illness, a layoff, caring for an ailing relative, for example. The key is to create an ironclad plan for proactively explaining it, so you stay in the running for a job you really deserve.
- Use a functional resume. If you have a lengthy or multiple employment gap(s), switch to a functional resume format. Unlike the traditional reverse-chronological resume, a functional format focuses on your skills and accomplishments, as opposed to your dates of employment. Whichever format you decide to use, however, always be honest. If you fudge dates, it may come back to haunt you.
- Take the bull by the horns. In your cover letter, briefly describe the reason for your period of unemployment. Don’t get bogged down in a lot of detail; you can explain further during the interview.
How should you address an employment gap in the interview?
- Be brief and professional. If you are asked about your employment gap, cut to the chase. The interviewer doesn’t need to know the details of health issues or personal circumstances. Realistically, no interviewer should be surprised by a gap right now. Stick to the facts, concisely state the cause of your absence from the workforce and move on.
- Don’t blame or apologize. If a global pandemic isn’t a good reason for being out of work, what is? Don’t seek sympathy, express bitterness, or make apologies. Stay upbeat. Show you are eager to move forward and ready to work NOW.
- Explain the upsides of your downtime. Share any resume-building efforts you made while you were unemployed. Did you attend classes? Volunteer? Read business books? Teach yourself a new skill? Tackle a big project you wouldn’t otherwise have time for? Close the income gap with freelance work? Overcome some sort of adversity? These experiences show that you took control of a tough situation, and they also demonstrate your work ethic, motivation, and personal character.
Out of Work?
Consider shifting your career plans to adapt to a changing economic environment. The pandemic killed some businesses while others were able to pivot and thrive. For example, if you’re looking for manufacturing jobs or engineering jobs, chances are, the skills you’ve earned are transferrable to a variety of industries.
Why Do It Alone?
- End your resume gap.
- Gain experience and sharpen your job skills.
- Stay motivated and positive.
- Get your foot in the door with your dream employer.
- Earn money while you search for your next full-time job.