How to deal with your career gap effectively
Even the most confident person can be nervous about explaining a career gap or a professional time out. But in today’s climate the stigma has shifted and more and more people are taking professional time outs for a variety of reasons. Maybe you went hiking in New Zealand, cared for a parent or took parenting leave. The reason doesn’t matter. But there are some ways which are better than others than to handle an absence from the workplace.
Here are some strategies to deal with the career gap elephant in the room
In an ideal world you will have taken steps before your career gap and it will be part of your overall strategy. But if not, don’t worry. All is not lost!
#1 Adjust your LinkedIn profile
Recruiters and hiring managers now look at a LinkedIn profile before a CV. Research from 3Plus says that a significant and increasing proportion of women respond to adverts on LinkedIn, so it’s important that your profile reflects your best self. Your career gap doesn’t need to be a barrier to finding a great new job. Being honest on your LinkedIn profile, highlighting the value of the timeout and positioning your intentions clearly to recruiting managers will ensure your application doesn’t get overlooked
Use your personal summary to explain, in your own words, the reason for your career break and the value that experience brought you. Highlight the main learning experiences of the time away from corporate life. Include any new skills and showcase your transferable skills that could be relevant to the new employer.
If your time away from the workplace was less than 12 months you can show only years in the ‘Experience’ section of your profile with no months. You’ll find a drop-down menu for both, but it’s not mandatory to include months. You will, however, need to be consistent throughout your experience history to avoid raising questions in the mind of recruiting managers. And when it comes to the interview stage, be prepared to discuss your time away from professional activity.
# 2 Adjust your CV
Before you have even started, understand that certain Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) don’t like gaps in CVs and you may damage the chances of your resume being retrieved. So put a place holder to cover the gap period. Many choose to put “Consultant” or “Freelance Project Manager” but be sure you have some data to back that up. You can call it: Sabbatical, Maternity Leave, Career Gap, Personal Development Leave – anything. Be sure that you include any success stories and achievements.
- Reached peak physical fitness to scale Mount xxx
- Launched an e-commerce jewellery business
- Completed an online leadership course
Recruiters are not going to miss a gap. They are trained to look for them.
Learn more about the recruitment process with the FREE 3Plus ebook- The way men and women look for jobs: 3Plus ebook for hiring managers and recruiters.
#3 Be confident
The most important thing is to be prepared to answer questions on your career gap so you don’t look like a deer in the headlights when an interviewer digs more deeply. First up be confident! Use strong non-verbal communication with good eye contact and posture. Sit” big” in your chair.
Position your time as a period of growth. Nurturing and developing new life is very challenging if you have had a baby ! Don’t describe it as “only being a Mum.” Be certain about how you spent the time out of the workplace and what you learned from it. Make a list before your interview so you are clear in your own head. Believe what you are saying. Any self-doubt will be apparent.
#4 Be transparent
Career history is easy to verify and most employers pursue references rigorously. So transparency is important. If you were fired I would not put that on a CV, but certainly raise it in an interview. Be clear about the reasons. Unless you committed some sort of crime then most hiring managers are sympathetic. If you have a history of being fired then definitely contact a career coach.
3Plus has a large number of career coaches available, from a variety of backgrounds. Contact us NOW for more information.
#5 Be positive
If you feel guilty about the time out, this will damage your self-confidence. Make sure you own your successes and are able to articulate them. Use positive language. Don’t apologise. Be clear about the skills you bring to the table.
#6 Be up to date
One of the greatest challenges for anyone who has been outside the workplace is making sure you are current with any developments in your function. This may require taking courses, watching TedX talks or reading blogs. It doesn’t matter how you acquire that knowledge as long as you can demonstrate it and link it to the job in hand.
#7 Be strategic
If you anticipate any difficulty seek professional help. It’s an investment which will pay dividends.
Don’t overlook one of the most powerful tools at your disposal – 3Plus can teach you ‘How to make the most of LinkedIn for career and business success.’