Bridging The Employment Gap
For many people, having a voluntary gap in employment is inevitable. With more and more employees opting to temporarily leave their job to take care of an elderly parent, raise children, or even pursue social or missionary work, hiring managers are noticing an increase in employment gaps.
And while those people who took time off from the workforce know they have done the right thing, when it comes time for them to re-enter the job market, they often have hesitations and fears: “What if the industry has changed so much that I can’t keep up?” “What if no one wants to hire me because of my gap in employment?” “What if during this time away I’ve lost my edge?” The list of worries is virtually endless.
Realize that any hesitation you may have about re-entering the workforce is likely unfounded. Today, employers know that many people have to take time off, and most employers actually expect it. For example, according to AARP, over 30 million households are currently providing care for an adult over of the age of 50. That’s a large number of people who are potentially out of the job market. Therefore, savvy employers realize the worth people with experience bring, regardless of any employment gaps.
No matter why you took time off from work or what industry you’re in, you need to remember that you are your most valuable resource and asset. While your list of experience on your resume is certainly important, employers are also looking for people who display self-confidence and who know the value they can offer a company. So even though technology and policies change rapidly in many industries and you may feel less than confident in your skills, you can take steps to make the most of your employment gap and showcase all you have offer. The following guidelines will help.
1. Be upfront and honest about the employment gap.
If you’ve chosen to leave the workforce to take care of a parent or to raise your children, you are showing a distinct level of commitment that employers are seeking. Realize that many employers complain of a lack of commitment from their staff these days, so demonstrating that you have commitment, even in a non-workplace environment, is a definite selling point. Therefore, don’t lie about any gaps and don’t stretch the dates of your previous employment to make the gap appear shorter. Be honest about what you did during the gap, whether it was taking care of an aging family member, doing missionary work, or raising children. In this case, honesty really is the best policy.
2. Keep up with your industry and education.
With the Internet, it’s easier than ever to stay up-to-date on industry trends. During your absence, or at the very least during the two to three months leading up to your re-entry to the workforce, regularly visit any pertinent industry web sites and subscribe to relevant industry journals and magazines. Additionally, take online courses that would sharpen your skills or advance your education. Be sure to state on your resume that during your leave of absence you were taking steps to keep your skills and industry knowledge current, and detail the exact measures you took. Chances are you’ll have done more industry-related research during your absence than many people who were gainfully employed in the company.
3. Take time to take care of yourself.
Many people who take on a caretaker role for several years fall into a pattern of ignoring their own needs and pushing themselves to the limit. As a result, they feel and look as if they’re constantly tired. When you’re trying to re-enter the workforce, the last thing you want is to appear exhausted and frazzled. Therefore, give yourself a two to three week break to rest and get yourself mentally and physically ready to be employed again. Also, if you’re going back to work because the person you were caring for passed away, remember that you’re still dealing with the grieving process. So don’t push yourself too far. Set your bar at an appropriate level. The last thing you want is to feel overwhelmed and regretting your decision to go back to work.
4. Explore a new business.
If you’re still uneasy about going back to your old profession, then maybe it’s time to look into starting your own business or trying a new industry. For example, if you’ve been taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s disease for the past five years, chances are that you know a lot about the condition and how to care for someone in that situation. Perhaps you can go into an Alzheimer’s related field, either assisting patients or providing guidance for their caretakers. Additionally, with the Internet, you can do so much online these days, whether it’s telecommuting for an employer or running an online business. Therefore, take the time to investigate all your options before making any big moves.
Confidence = Employed
When you do get hired and are on the first few days of your new job, be honest with your co-workers about what you’ve been doing for the past few years. Don’t hide your employment gap from anyone, because there’s no need to anymore. Chances are that one of your co-workers is going to end up doing the same thing or something similar that you did one day. As long as you’ve kept up with your industry during your time away, you can hold your own and prove your worth.
In the end, being honest, staying abreast of your chosen profession, taking care of yourself, and knowing all your options will give you the confidence you need to successfully re-enter the workforce. Take comfort in the fact that most employers understand what’s going on in real life and are accepting of employment gaps. And if you do run into a potential employer who has a problem with your employment gap, then at least you know that particular employer isn’t one you want to work for. By showcasing all the talents you have to offer–both work-related and personal–any employment gap will seem insignificant because you have the confidence and know-how to excel at your chosen field…and you and everyone else will know it.
About the Author: Tamara Vaughn is a speaker and author of the upcoming book, “The PowerShift Principle: Empowering Yourself through Life’s Challenges.” She is the president of SuccessNRG, Inc., a transformational company designed to foster personal growth and self-empowerment in others. Her experience includes 17 years practicing law, and 10 years of life coaching, seminars and workshops. Tamara has weathered the storms of adversity, personally and professionally, and her expertise is helping others do the same.
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