Mind the Gap: 4 Ways to Banish
Employment Gaps

August 26th, 2010 | Job Search, Resume | No Comments »

It’s no secret: Large employment gaps on resumes are scary, for both the job seeker and the employer. The reasons for the gap vary wildly depending on the person, and obviously, there has been a recent dramatic rise in numbers of job seekers with employment gaps. But no matter the reasons or numbers, the majority of employers will still dismiss these resumes without a second thought.

Unfair as this may seem, put yourself in their shoes for just a second. Was this candidate laid off or fired? And what have they doing since? The magnitude of uncertainty is great, and considering how expensive it can be to hire and train new employees, resumes with employment gaps can be risky. As a job seeker, this realization is important, because it allows you to be more realistic about your own gap.

The biggest, most important change you can make when you’re out of a job is to eliminate the gap. Duh, right? That’s what you’ve been trying to do while scouring the Internet for jobs all day everyday. The thing is, if that’s all you’re doing, that gap’s just going to get longer and longer. During this time, you’re going to lose, or at least diminish, both your hard and soft skills. The trick is to maintain those skills while also showing your personal drive and motivation by filling those gaps with actual activities.

1. Educate Yourself

Taking classes and getting certified in IT can help maintain those valuable technology skills that employers are looking for. Whether it’s online, at a big state school, or at your local community college, further education help you remain a valuable candidate despite your unemployment. Worried about finances? Resources like MicroTrain Technologies offer free seminars in addition to a wide array of training and certification classes.

2. Working for Free

Are any of your friends or relatives in need of website design? Perhaps your neighbor’s family-owned business needs some help with their database or network? Even “simple” projects like this will keep your skills in practice. Find as much of this free work as possible, and even give your services a company name, and list it on your resume.

3. Contracting and Consulting

A permanent job may be your ideal, but until then, don’t be afraid of freelancing, contracting, or part-time work. Your technology skills will stay fresh, and your soft skills – interacting and communicating with a team – will remain strong as well.

4. Give Back

Volunteering may conjure images of animal shelters, soup kitchens, and nursing homes, and while all these are great and will certainly maintain your soft skills, there are volunteer opportunities out there that will put your IT skills to use too. Check out United Way Triangle and their Teaming for Technology volunteer opportunities.


How to Include These on Your Resume

You may be unsure about listing these on your resume, but the truth is, if you’ve worked hard to maintain your skills, these activities can be listed in your experience, chronologically ahead of your previous position. Want an example?

No matter what you choose to do in addition to your job search, keep two main things in mind: Your chosen activity must answer the employer’s question as to what you’ve been doing since your last job, and it must add value to you as a candidate.

It’s easy to be negative about your employment gap and about employers who dismiss you for it, especially if you have consequent financial worries on the mind. But for the truly motivated job seeker, there’s no such thing as an employment gap, and it is that candidate who will get hired again more quickly. Use the time off to your advantage, and banish that gap.

Clare Saumell – Marketing Director at Ashley Ellis