Life has a way of turning out differently than people plan. For example, someone may have been on a steady upward trajectory in their career and then needed to stop working entirely to care for a sick spouse, parent or child. Personal illness, extended travel and parenting leave are other common reasons for gaps in work history.
Carol Camerino is a career advisor at University of Phoenix and works with both students and alumni who find themselves in this position. The first piece of advice she typically gives them is to approach applying for a new job with a possibility mindset. People looking for a job understandably feel nervous about explaining gaps in their employment, but Camerino has seen too many people hold themselves back because of it.
Instead of focusing on being away from paid work, job applicants should consider the skills they learned while away. These skills can be just as valuable to a potential employer as any they may have performed in previous jobs. Time away from work is often a period of tremendous growth where people make new connections and develop a new outlook on life.
Start by Updating Your Resume
Whether the work gap is just a few months or several years, applicants should include current information on their resume to give prospective employers a better idea of how they have spent their time. Some options include freelance work, volunteer opportunities and completing a degree or certificate program.
Job seekers should weigh their resume against skills listed in job advertisements for the type of position they want. People who discover that they have skill gaps should consider what they need to do to update their skills for the current job market. Obtaining new skills could be as simple as taking one online course or highlighting the need to earn a college degree.
Next Steps for Job Success
People looking for a new job need to understand that the search must take priority. Applicants should continue applying and submitting resumes until they receive an offer. They will only end up frustrated if they apply for a few jobs and wait for companies to contact them.
After job seekers update their resume and commit to the hard work of searching for a new job, the next step is to let people in their network know they are looking. Remember to frame the job search in a positive light and avoid coming across as desperate or unwilling to do the hard work to find a job. They can let people in their network know about their plan to return and that they would appreciate any leads or recommendations during the process.
Camerino also advises University of Phoenix students and alumni to define what they are looking for in a job. Taking this approach brings focus to the job search and helps people realize they do not have to accept the first job offer they receive to start working again. Keeping the job search focused only on positions that match skills and areas of interest can take longer, but both employer and employee will be happier in the long term.
Camerino recommends searching in the following place for job openings:
- Pursue opportunities within the job seeker’s network of contacts since this can help them progress through the applicant tracking system faster
- Work with recruiters whenever possible
- Consider project-based work or temporary assignments
- Do not overlook opportunities with smaller companies
- Review job boards
However, she stresses not to become overly attached to any one method of searching for a new job. Candidates should also try not to take rejection personally since many factors affect the selection process.
How to Prepare for Job Interviews
Another piece of advice Camerino often gives is for applicants to address the elephant in the room right away during interviews. When candidates proactively bring up their time away from the workplace, they demonstrate that they have nothing to hide but plenty to contribute. Hiring managers and interviewers are sure to notice this straightforward and honest approach. Getting this topic out of the way also quickly removes tension and awkwardness from both parties.
Job candidates working with a recruiter should ask them to help prepare for job interviews, especially if they have not had an interview in several years. Those who do not have a recruiter can ask a friend to act as the interviewer or practice how they might answer certain questions in front of a mirror.
About University of Phoenix
With University of Phoenix, students can enroll in degree programs ranging from associate to doctoral levels or complete a certificate program to learn specific skills. Degree programs start every one to two months. University of Phoenix is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (http://hlcommission.org). The University offers more than 100 degree programs in an online format.
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