I remember looking through the want ads after graduating college and seeing the phrase “experience required.”  Luckily, I had worked during college and I did an unpaid, no credit internship just to have some experience behind me.  I was able to land a job pretty quickly after I graduated college, which was back in 1992.  Some of my other friends weren’t so lucky and as the months passed, it was harder and harder for them to find a job and explain the gap on their resume from graduation to their current situation.  Employers wanted to know what they have been doing since they graduated and most of them were doing nothing which doesn’t send a very positive message about that graduate.

Today, people are facing a very similar situation.  People have been laid off and stayed on unemployment for as long as they could.  Some are still collecting and many people were lucky to benefit from the extension of unemployment benefits.  The situation I am seeing is that job seekers have a gap on their resume from the time they were laid off until now.  That gap could be as short as a few months, but I have seen a lot of resumes with a gap of almost a year.  Of course no one asked to be laid off and it was and still is a very difficult scenario for people to be in.

Unfortunately, that gap on a resume from being unemployed is becoming a turn off to employers and recruiters.  I have talked to several job seekers within the last few months that very non-chalantly say they took time off or have been looking for a job in between doing projects around the house etc.  Employers are looking to hire motivated, energetic, and hard-working people who will help their company succeed.  That message doesn’t come across if you have been riding out unemployment without doing anything else besides looking for a job.

So how does a job seeker overcome this situation?  Listen, I was unemployed too over the last year and collected unemployment, but I didn’t just sit around waiting for my next project.  I got more involved with my writing and took advantage of some free webinars for recruiters, gaining more knowledge on social media recruiting.  I kept very busy staying up to date with my skills and recruiting strategies and everything I did during that time, I was able to put on my resume which closed the gap of being unemployed.

Ways to close that unemployment gap on your resume include:

  • Look into free workshops that offer new skills or keeping up to date with your current skills.  An employer can see that you are motivated to continue keeping up with your skills or that you are someone who likes to continue learning new things.
  • Volunteer your time.  If you can find a volunteer opportunity that is related to your experience and industry, that’s a bonus!  In fact that could lead to your next job.  Any volunteer work shows an employer that you are willing to help out and not just sit around.
  • Offer to do similar work in your field for free.  If you are in accounting, offer to help a friend or relative to help them with their taxes or offer a small business a free service.  A web developer/designer can offer to set up a website for free.  Someone in marketing can offer creating campaigns or social media content to nonprofit organizations or someone you know who has a business and a very tight budget.
  • Offer your services for a small fee and be an independent consultant.

All of these will close the gap on your resume because an employer will see that from the date you were laid off to present you are doing “something.”  When I talk to someone who has been unemployed for a long time and hasn’t made any effort to do anything besides collect unemployment, it’s a turn off.  If I have 3 candidates, who have all been unemployed for awhile, but 2 of them have been doing side work or volunteer work and the other has been doing nothing, who do you think I am more likely to present to a hiring manager?

We don’t choose to be laid off, but we do choose how we handle our situation.  My advice to job seekers who have been unemployed:  don’t choose to handle being laid off by sitting back and hoping for a job.  Get involved and show employers that you are ready to get back into the workforce and working hard while looking for a new job.

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