From Mashable.com, by JEROME TERNYNCK (Read the original article.)
Like the glaring Fs on the report card of the adult world, resume gaps are viewed as imperfections on our work record. It happens to the best of us. One day you’re working, and the next day you’re sitting at home wondering, “What’s next?”
Maybe your gap is due to layoffs, or perhaps you decided you couldn’t take a certain aspect of your job anymore. Either way, they can be tough both while you’re in them and when you have to explain them to an employer. But if you use your time between jobs wisely, it can make you a more competitive candidate.
Why you’ve got to be honest
…if you tell the truth to your advantage, you may be able to make those resume gaps work for you.It can be tempting to embellish your resume just a bit to scrub away those periods of time when you were out of work. You may try to rationalize it by telling yourself that it was only a few months, or that the recruiter will never find out. But in reality, recruiters can and often do find out — which burns a bridge for you immediately. Just play it safe and tell the truth.
Remember, you’re interviewing for more than just a paycheck. You’re interviewing for a lasting relationship with an employer; a relationship that should be built on trust from both parties. Start out the relationship by lying, and it probably won’t go much further than chatting with the recruiter.
Besides, if you tell the truth to your advantage, you may be able to make those resume gaps work for you.
How gaps can work to your advantage
Treating your resume gap like a sabbatical gives the impression that you’re in control of your time and your life — not living paycheck to paycheck.Your resume gaps aren’t the first ones employers have seen, and they don’t mean you’re out of the running — unless you handle them poorly. Recruiters don’t ask you about gaps because they’re terrible — they simply want to know what you were doing so they can get a more complete picture of who you are as a candidate.
So really, whether your gaps are glaring blemishes or points of interest is really up to you. ” data-micro=”1″>So really, whether your gaps are glaring blemishes or points of interest is really up to you.
Think about it: Most professionals have likely hit a spot in their career when they felt like they needed to take a detour. Sometimes it takes a little time and effort to get from where you are to where you want to be. The key is to make that time out of work seem deliberate or welcomed (even if it wasn’t).
Also, remember that many people intentionally plan to take extended time off after long periods of work. They’re called sabbaticals, and they’re actually pretty common. Treating your resume gap like a sabbatical gives the impression that you’re in control of your time and your life — not living paycheck to paycheck.
Of course, to be able to treat a gap this way, you have to do a couple of things:
- Financially prepare for those inevitable gaps so you can afford to be thoughtful about your sabbatical time instead of desperately job hunting
- Actually use the time off for personal development — not a time to sit at home and relax (you can do that during your vacation time at your dream job). The ability to treat your gap as an opportunity to launch a new career, instead of a misfortune, will make you even more attractive to your recruiter.
How to strategically fill a resume gap
Start with the end in mind: The gap is what you make it. If you use the time to identify your real calling and ideal employer, being out of work could end up being the greatest thing to happen in your career. To avoid having another gap soon, be thoughtful about what your end goal will be.
Make a list of what you need: After you identify the goal, it will help to make a list of attributes and skills your target employer will want. Many companies are willing to do exploratory interviews with candidates to help them understand which qualities and skills they look for in employees. Then, when the company calls you back for an interview down the road, you’ve already set expectations about what you were doing during your resume gap: You were working to become their ideal candidate.
Once you’ve determined the type of training that will make you more hirable, go get it. This is where you make the difference between a constructive gap and a destructive gap. Here are some ways to do that:
- Take classes and get training: In the next five years, there’s projected to be a shortage of five million knowledge workers. And there are a lot of ways to make yourself one of those wanted five million. You can take classes online, at a university or college or enroll in a local technical program. Whether it’s a planned set of courses or a deliberate self-designed curriculum, differentiating yourself through training is a strategic way to go after a new career, make yourself more attractive and fill a resume gap.
- Freelance: You may end up not needing to explain your career gap to anyone. More than 53 million Americans currently freelance — and almost half use it as their primary income. If there’s something you’re really passionate about and do well, consider trying out a freelancing career. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll likely have a few projects to show for it — and technically, you won’t have a career gap to explain because you’ll have had jobs.
- Volunteer or intern: What you do doesn’t have to make money. Experience is worth more than cash — three out of four human resource executives said the skills and experience acquired while volunteering make a job candidate more desirable. If your dream company has an opening for an internship in your dream department, check out the opportunity. If it’s possible that you could move into a paid position after a couple of months, it might be a good way to get your foot in the door. Or, look for a philanthropic opportunity to give you experience in your desired field.
- Travel: Use your gap as an opportunity to learn a new language or grasp another culture. Multilingual employees are able to process information more quickly than others and are predicted to become even more in-demand in the coming decade. Traveling is a great way to expand your worldview — which international companies will love. Plus, it’s fun.
Being in between jobs can be disappointing and difficult to talk about with recruiters. Don’t ever lie to cover up gaps or you may be ruining chances for good work relationships; instead, turn the situation into a highlight you’re proud of. Show employers that you’re a self-starter with initiative by finding out where you want to be and what you need in order to get there, and then by going out and getting it. Resume gaps can be the launch point of a new, more fulfilling career. It’s up to you how you decide to construct and control that time.Explaining Gaps in Your Work History