How to Deal With an Employment Gap
An employment gap is a period when a person is not employed or actively engaged at a job. This may last for several weeks to a couple of months, and occasionally, prolong to a year or so. An employment gap can be due to a variety of reasons. Some of the positive ones are –
- an employee quitting for a while to go back to school to pursue further studies.
- raising a child/children (this is especially common for women).
A few negative reasons are –
- getting laid off due to retrenchment.
- resignation as a result of job dissatisfaction.
The following causes may bring either positive or negative results:
- Trying one’s luck in business
- To help care for a loved one who suddenly became ill or an invalid due to an accident (depending on the gravity or seriousness of the illness or disability, one may not be certain when she can resume working).
Regardless of one’s reasons, an employment gap raises a warning sign to hiring managers. They give off a vibe that a job applicant might be irresponsible, flaky, or has spent a good number of years hopping from one job to another.
If you have inevitably found yourself facing unemployment, or for some reason you remain uncertain about when you can look for work again, here are several ways to fill your time productively:
Keep Your Skills Current During An Employment Gap
The 2020 pandemic has rendered tons of workers redundant, causing them to lose their jobs or settle for underemployment. One of the best ways to cope with this is to retrain, get upskilled, or re-evaluate one’s competencies and strengths.
You might be better off in the long run if you commit yourself now to learn how to handle virtual meetings through Zoom, negotiate better through email, or boost your typing speed.
You can also hone your existing skills or learn new ones by signing up for free online courses or classes. If you have a bit of funds left, consider investing in a paid, short-term course that issues a certificate. You can set your own pace and study the course materials during your spare time.
Increase Your Knowledge by Reading
You don’t need to shell out money on books during an employment gap. Borrow from your nearest public library, check out any periodicals or broadsheets they may have for the job market section or career supplement. You can also keep tabs on a few blogs related to your industry or expertise.
Grow Your Network
Never allow an employment gap to keep you out of the loop. Create a log of your former supervisors’ and colleagues’ contact information just in case you need a referral or a recommendation letter from them.
It might also help to sign up to online forums and webinars or join Facebook groups that address specific concerns in your industry.
Consider What You Have Learned from Starting a Business
If worse came to worst and your startup failed to launch and expand, don’t panic. You can resolve to look for a job again.
Create a list by writing down the skills you have acquired from your entrepreneurial endeavor. To illustrate, I know a guy who parted ways with his business partner after just two years of starting their own company. They originally intended to carve out a niche as an advertising agency that incorporates short video clips onto blogs and utilize animated graphics to gain more customers.
And yet, they had difficulty getting enough clients interested. Needless to say, he was devastated. But after the initial shock wore off, he began exploring potential job opportunities again.
As a person who’s had a short stint as an entrepreneur, he realized that some of his newly acquired skills are –
- project management
- cost analysis
- risk mitigation
- administrative duties
- customer service
After sending out revised copies of his resumes, it didn’t take long before he was hired to be a visual merchandiser by a company running a string of shopping malls. Clearly, his case was a perfect example of making the most of a prolonged employment gap.
Ever Heard of “Virtual Volunteering”?
Getting involved in a non-profit organization or helping out small business owners are excellent ways to lend your talents and skills and keep them from getting rusty should you find yourself facing an employment gap.
And nowadays, you don’t even need to leave the comforts of your own home to volunteer, and devoting an average of 6-8 hours a week is usually adequate. Google “virtual volunteer opportunities” and read up on how you can do volunteer work using a computer and a reliable internet connection.
Offer to Mentor / Train Someone or Vice Versa
One of the best ways to retain your knowledge or keep your skills polished and sharp during an employment gap is to mentor college students, teach newbie professionals, or temp workers desiring to advance from their current level of proficiency.
While you may not be able to hold down a teaching position in a class, offering to mentor someone in private will improve your communication and critical thinking skills. Introducing new lessons will also train you to be systematic.
And being a mentor requires you to evaluate someone’s progress, and be as objective yet honest as possible with your criticisms.
On the other hand, agreeing to be mentored or trained by another expert, professional, or anyone knowledgeable can yield benefits, too. Maybe there’s a brand new software you’d like to master, or you want to learn how to format documents in PDF or Google Docs.
Work Freelance (or Part-Time)
Accepting short-term projects or assignments related to your competencies will help bring in income even during an employment gap. If you used to do graphic or web design, you can help small businesses with their logo or brand strategy.
If you used to work in corporate communications, you can make money doing proofreading or editing jobs. You can also pitch guest articles to blog moderators. Entering data into a spreadsheet, being a virtual assistant or telemarketer are all good options if you’re highly skilled in administrative tasks.
Update Your Resume
Even if you don’t see yourself fit to work any time soon, make sure to include any relevant experience, training, or volunteer work you’ve done during your employment gap. Assess whether or not a functional resume will benefit you over a chronological one.
About the Author
Ronali dela Cruz is a freelance writer and proofreader who enjoys playing the piano as a hobby. She also manages her greeting card business. She’s passionate about topics like self-improvement, boosting one’s self-confidence, goal setting, and time management.