How to Handle Employment Gaps

Posted by Patra Frame

Once upon a time, the main employment gaps were among mothers returning to the work force. But now, such gaps are fairly common. More men are taking on family care, middle career people and retiring military are taking sabbaticals, it’s not as easy to roll from one contract to another as it used to be, and all ages are going to school or battling unemployment.

Employers are more willing to accept such gaps if they see an explanation and understand what you have done to maintain your skills and add new ones. Ideally you have done such things all along or have started doing them as a part of your plan to return to work.

Whenever I review resumes at professional events, I am now asked about how to deal with an employment gap on one’s resume and social media profiles. Here are the top tips:

Tip 1

If your gap exceeds 4-6 months, it is wise to address it clearly and within your job history. But what do you say?

Family issues (childcare, other care/health issues, and so on)
One simple line: Family care, issue now fully resolved, Date x – y

Sabbatical, Team Rubicon – disaster relief, Date x – y

Professional certification program in X, Date x – y

Tip 2

If you have been out of the workforce longer term –

* While unemployed for more than 6 months: Consider what you can show which demonstrates you have maintained or upgraded your skills. This might be through temporary work, consulting, formal or informal study, certifications, or volunteer work.

* For care-giving of a year or more: Show any relevant skills you used or gained in volunteer work and via self-study, seminars, or classes. Include any positions you held in professional associations or community groups.

Tip 3

Network, network, and network some more.

Your best bet is that someone who knows you or knows of you will recommend you for a possible position. Recommendations tend to overcome most employment gaps and set you up for better results in your search. Employee referrals are a great source for most employers, particularly in the cleared community, so you will want to re-connect with or find new connections within your target companies.

While the best network is one you have built and maintained over time, you can still enhance your network if you have not done that. Reconnect with old coworkers and then build new connections at professional events, activities you do regularly, and online. But always remember, a network takes interest in your connections’ goals and needs plus willingness to help them too.

Employment gaps are not uncommon. But it helps your search when you clearly show them on your resumes and profiles and talk about them during networking. Keep your explanations simple and brief. Whenever possible, allude to what you have done and are doing to keep yourself current in your field and to upgrade your knowledge.

Patra FramePatra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 01, 2014 8:04 am

2 thoughts on “How to Handle Employment Gaps”

  1. On a similar note, I have been a Defense Contractor (with different organizations) the past 8 years and been on different contracts ranging from 3 months to 4 years. During an interview what is the Best way to explain this “Job Hopping” ? Should I list a contract on my resume that lasted less than 2 months ? The reason I left was due to pursue an opportunity that offered a higher salary but do not wish to state that. I look forward to hearing from you.

  2. Walter, While you may consider leaving it off your resume if it bothers you, you will need to list it on applications and security clearance paperwork and they do tend to check among these for discrepancies. And you cannot adjust other jobs to cover the time – again this is something commonly checked in the process. So may be smarter to list it on resume with few details and, when asked, say it was not a good fit and you had another opportunity. Some companies will care, others will not.
    But a lesson for the future in considering and accepting jobs.

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