It is easier to job search when you are employed but what if you currently do not have a job? What if you haven’t had a job for a long period of time? Employers will notice a gap in your resume so think about a few things seriously. For instance, who will take on the roles you have been performing during your career break? Can you share this with others? If you have been out for an illness, are you feeling a 100%? Are you returning to a familiar field or would like to enter a new area? Do you have the required skills or do you need training or retraining? Do you have a long-term plan? What if you were fired? Firings and lay-offs are very much part of corporate culture today so just move forward with your job search without letting this bring you down.
Before you go full-on with your job search, some reflection is in order. Keep a journal, listing your skills and interests. Also, what skills do you need to acquire? How much time are you giving yourself to find this new job and accordingly, how much time can you put in daily to achieve this goal? If you are changing fields, then research what opportunities are out there in your desired field, read up on it, attend relevant lectures and seminars, enroll in courses, talk to people in the field and use their inside knowledge as a resource. Work out short-term, mid-term and long-term career goals. Once you know your values, interest, goals, the career that interests you, set target dates too. Short-term goals should be within the year, mid-term goal should be achieved in three years and long-term goals should be achieved in five years. If you have been fired, leave the explanation of this difficult situation out of your job application form. You can say things like “job ended” or “will discuss in person.” If you can get away from listing this job on your resume then that would be best. Say if you held that job for only a few months. It will come up in the interview and will need to be addressed by you.
Build your Brand: Network
Surround yourself with professional peers. If you can find an able and knowledgeable mentor who is trusted in the industry, that would be the best case scenario as he/she can help open several doors. Networking is a must, do not underestimate it. Would it not be great if a recruiter or hiring manager meets you through a trusted contact before they learn about your being away for a while from the workforce? If they are impressed with you face to face, then your absence from the workforce won’t matter as much. Attend networking events, and invite former colleagues and clients to meet for coffee.
You can explain your absence from the work force in a cover letter to the recruiter when you apply. In LinkedIn, you can address the absence in your profile or InMail. The key is to do it briefly but honestly. Draw attention away from your work history gap and focus it on more relevant areas; write a strong summary with relevant skills and expertise. Your cover letter should also focus and speak directly to skills associated with the job description. If you’ve been fired and it comes up in the interview as to why, you have to give a direct and brief explanation. Do not ramble as it makes you look defensive. Take responsibility and do not point fingers. Even if you were plainly fired, a glowing review of your old company makes you look less threatening. A good strategy if you are in this situation is to use reference who are strong and who will defend you. Perhaps former colleagues and management level staff can give reference and positively explain your exit from the company. Also, if the job is further down in your resume then the chance of your new employer contacting references is slim. This is a good thing. There are some who believe, however, that you should never tell a potential employer that you were fired. The problem with that is that you have to show that you were doing something else in the interim.
Describe any professional endeavors you’ve pursued while away-classes, unpaid work, freelancing, part-time, anything that you can show that links you to your desired career path.
When you’ve been away from the workforce for a while, a legitimate concern for employers is whether your skills are outdated. You need to show that you have maintained or ideally increased your knowledge during your time away. If you are using LinkedIn, then fill in completely the education, courses, skills, expertise and certification sections of your LinkedIn profile. If you just graduated from a course or acquired some fresh skills do mention this directly in your summary. On the other hand, if your skills are rusty, or if a required certification has expired, fix it right away. Include your current training in your LinkedIn profile so people see that you are being proactive.
Some candidates who have been out of work for a while are concerned about getting hired if they are above a certain age. You have to remember that employers make decisions on employment based on factors other than age. Ultimately, it’s the right person for the job regardless of age.
When you’ve been away, it makes a lot of sense for someone else to vouch for you. Use LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements as tools to address any concern that an employer might have about your situation.
Taking a break for working whether by choice or circumstances has a lot less stigma nowadays than it did 20-30 years ago. People who are “on a break” are not just sitting at home; they usually do a whole bunch of activities like volunteering, or caring for a sick parent, or engage in some skill building. So actually, you may be accumulating skills that you could highlight when you resume your job search.
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