My academic background is in International Relations. So when a career counseling client comes to me with concerns about the “gap” on her resume – the “career gap” – I always smile (to myself) thinking about the good ole days of the “missile gap” when the US thought it was behind the Soviet Union regarding the number of missiles each side had. Common wisdom had it that the US was far behind and had the catch up. The truth was actually closer to the opposite.
It’s a good analogy because most people believe that the gap on their resume is a gap which needs to be explained, not filled. Problem is, if you have to explain something it is, by definition, a problem. So the best way to deal with a resume gap – meaning that you have been unemployed for some time – is to fill it. The question is, with what?
My approach to a job search is to always stay focused on the employer. What does the employer want? What does the employer care about? Let’s answer those questions and fill the gap:
Employers want employees who leave their egos at the door. Take on some part-time jobs to help make ends meet. There is nothing wrong with saying to an employer, “As you can see on my resume, I leave my ego at the door. I have bills to pay and honest work is honest work, so I’ve been stocking shelves at my local supermarket. If nothing else, it’s a great workout and I have gained an appreciation for what “behind-the-scenes employees” go through which, I think, will make me a better supervisor.”
Employers want employees who try to better themselves. There are plenty of free (or close to free), well-respected, on-line courses (schools, actually) that you can take. Check out Coursera (courser.org), EDX (edxonline.org/), Minerva Project (minervaproject.com), Udacity (udacity.com), and if I may be immodest, visit my website as I will be offering webinar series on starting and running a business; and a series on conducting a successful job search and career success. So list the courses you have taken. In the case of Coursera you’ll be able to note that the instructors come from Ivy League colleges.
Employers want employees who keep sharp. So take on some consulting or part-time roles in your profession and volunteer at some non-profits. But make certain your volunteer work is related to your profession. The added advantage is that you will be expanding your network and, as happens all too often, one of your new connections may lead you to your next job.
Finally, employers like employees who can multi-task. So when they read on your resume, under a sub-heading “Interim Work Related/Professional Activities,” which is the section that fills the gap, everything that you have been doing, you can add, in the interview, that you have also been applying for jobs, networking and interviewing. Most importantly, you can say, “As you can see, I don’t like to be idle.” And as we all know, no employer likes an idle worker.