How to Approach an Employment Gap
“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation."
Have you been out of the workforce for a while? If it is time to reenter the workforce, you may feel like you’re entering unfamiliar territory. In this post, we’ll discuss ways to stand out in a competitive job market, as well as how to address any time off in between jobs. Before you hit the ground running with your job search, here are some tips to help prepare.
You know the reason why you haven’t been working, but employers won’t. More than likely this question will come up in a phone screening, interview, or a face-to-face meeting and you will want to know how to address the question effectively. Make sure you are able to speak to your time off – were you in school pursuing your education in the desired field of interest? Were you participating in any professional development activities and focusing on expanding your network?
If you were not working due to a personal or medical reason, tread lightly when answering these questions during an interview. Be as honest as you can - state what that personal reason is and then shift the focus by highlighting the relevant aspects of your background. Make a connection between yourself and the employer. Make sure those examples are not only relevant to your background and skill sets, but also that they’re relevant to the job interview. You want to avoid causing the employer concern while at the same time being honest. The fact that you are meeting with them shows that they feel you are qualified, it’s now your turn to prove them right.
Remember to stay confident. Job searching is about presenting yourself to employers so they can evaluate your background and meet with you to see if you’re a good fit for their team. It might be hard to not feel judged during this process, but stay confident. Practice your interview skills by talking through your experience, education and skill sets. The more prepared you are to speak to your background, the more confident you’ll feel.
A few things you can do right now, if you haven’t started, are to brush up on your technical skills, expand your network, and work on your professional development.
- Expand your network of professionals by being open to discussion no matter where you are –whether it is a family gathering, social evening with friends, or another extracurricular activity. Pay attention to your conversations and don’t hesitate to plug that you are currently looking for work in a particular industry. Also, don’t forget to use LinkedIn as a resource to build contacts and you can even check out the CTU page and search for fellow alumni that are currently working in your field of interest. You can also reach out to a recruiter at a staffing agency and utilize their contacts regarding open positions that may be available.
- Think about becoming more up-to-date with your knowledge and experience. This is a great way to help fill in your employment gap and show employers that you have been working on enhancing your career, even if you haven’t been working. Are there any industry certifications that you can obtain which may make you more marketable to employers?
- Do research and see if the position you want to apply for requires certain software or system knowledge (you can do this by checking out job postings on sites like indeed.com).
While employment gaps may be scary to talk about during an interview, the key is to be prepared. Employers will want to know about your prior experience and education, but they’ll also likely ask why you had a gap in your employment. Make sure you are setting yourself up to be able to respond to these inquiries with professionalism and confidence.
Samantha Urso is a Senior Career Coach at Colorado Technical University with 10+ years of experience in higher education including career coaching and advising, along with management and customer service.
If you're a current CTU student or alumnus looking for more career advice, please contact the Career Services Department at 866-813-1836 Option 5 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1Source: Ashe, A. Arthur Ashe Biography. Retrieved from http://www.biography.com/people/arthur-ashe-9190544#political-activism (Visited 3/8/16)