Finding a good job can be tough, especially with the economy the way it is. Having a large gap on your resume could potentially hold you back when it comes to trying to find a job.
There are many reasons that people have a gap in their work history. Unemployment, illness, study, sabbatical, or taking time to raise a young family. There are ways that you can polish up your skills and give yourself the very best chance of getting back into your chosen career.
Research has shown that neary 60% of people have some kind of gap in their professional work history.
Identify any skills gaps
Industry standards change pretty quickly. You may have been at the top of your game when you left work, but technology and software change all the time. Look at job ads and see if there are any common skills or requirements listed.
Once you’ve identified any skills or qualifications that you’re missing, make a plan to gain them. This could be as simple as a certification or an online postgraduate degree in order to be able to compete against other potential applicants.
Learn to talk about your career break
It’s daunting trying to talk about any gaps in your career. It immediately makes most people feel quite defensive. There are ways to spin this so that you can minimise their impact or even turn them into a positive.
Whatever you do, don’t lie. You’ll get found out sooner or later. Give a brief explanation of why you have an employment gap and what you have been doing. If you leave this blank, then employers might use their imaginations and think the worst.
If you do get through to an interview, then this is a much better way of talking about employment gaps with prospective employers. If asked, start be explaining the gap, say why this won’t reoccur in the future and emphasise any skills or experience you’ve picked up along the way.
Even though you might think you’re at a disadvantage, you can’t change the past, so own it, and talk confidently.
Start networking again
There is so much to be gained from networking. Not only will it help you in your search for a role, but it can build up your confidence again. Learning to talk with other professionals in a non-stressful situation can help you relax, knowing you aren’t being interviewed.
Some of the best places to look for networking opportunities are on LinkedIn, Facebook and any local and professional networks that are relevant to you. Many organisations are now embracing virtual networking, which can be done via video conferencing.
Get up to date with the sector
If you’ve had a complete break for work, then you’ll probably have missed out on a lot. Every industry has it’s own new, trends and influencers that you’ve become disconnected from. You’ll need to start immersing yourself again.
Start by visiting any relevant websites and signing up to newsletters. Just because you haven’t been working, you want to show potential employers that you still know what’s going on.
Brush up on your interview technique
Interviews can be nervewracking experiences for even the most qualified candidates. You want to make a good impression and give yourself the best chance of getting that job.
Dress the part. You want to look like a serious candidate. Not all industries have a formal dress code, so research them first and dress appropriately. If in doubt, go for smart.
Practice answering interview questions out loud. Ideally, you will do this with a friends or partner, but even doing it by yourself will let you get used to talking calmly and clearly.
Learn how to sell yourself. If you’re not a natural extrovert, this can feel a little alien to you. Don’t be embarrassed, you’re there to tell a potential employer why you’re a great fit for the job.
Be prepared for a different type of interview process. The changing world of work means that you may not be meeting an interviewer face to face. Interviews done via phone or Zoom are commonplace now.
Concentrate on getting the basics right. Look the part, show up on time, do your homework. Be polite and professional to everyone you meet, from the security guard to receptionist.
Follow up after an interview and thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you, reiterate how much you would like to work for them and ask if there’s any further information they would like.
If you are unsuccessful, get in touch with the interviewer again and say that you are disappointed not to get the role but thank them for their time. Ask for specific feedback on why you weren’t successful so that you can use this to improve for next time.
Look for companies offering returners schemes
Some wel known companies have developed schemes especially for those returning to work after a significant gap. These are often of a fixed time period and can often lead to a permanent job. At the end of the program, you can show other potential employers that you have recent industry experience with a respected employer.
Remember that no one’s career is a straight line
It’s rarely a smooth path, even for very successful people. Try to let fo of the notion that there is only one way to do things, and any hiccups along the way will keep you from reaching your goals. Whether your career break wasn’t planned (job loss, illness) or was (family, sabbatical), take all the positives you can from the time away.
A long career gap doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get your career back on track. But it can be difficult to build up your confidence once you’ve been out of the the workforce for a while. Try and offset this by building skills and knowledge and getting back out into the industry. Before you know it, you’ll be back action with a role you love.