How to Overcome an Employment Gap

If you’ve been unemployed for more than a few months, you need to start thinking about how potential employers will perceive that fact.  It seems unfair, but the reality is that many employers are unwilling to hire a candidate that has been out of work for a long period of time.  The good news is that there are some actions that you can take to overcome this barrier.  Here are some tips that will help you get employers to focus less on your employment gap and more on your skills:

Find Small Opportunities.   While it is understandable to want to hold out for your target job, don’t completely close yourself off to other opportunities.  A part time job, a contract position, or a job that is a bit out of your realm could provide you with needed income and reduce your employment gap so that is actually easier for you to get your dream job.

Take a Course.  Unemployment provides you with an excellent opportunity to update your skills.  The key is to find a course that would make you more marketable for your target position.  The other advantage is that when an employer asks you about your employment gap, you can point out that you were furthering your education.   

Volunteer.  Volunteer work can be an excellent way to fill in an employment gap, but you need to be strategic about where you invest your time.  For example, if you were going to volunteer at a school, it may be more beneficial for you to volunteer in the office where you will be gaining valuable administrative skills than it would be to volunteer painting sets for the school play.

Use Your Network.  The people in your network can help you overcome virtually any employment barrier.  For example, if you have someone in the company who is willing to vouch for you, the manager may overlook the fact that you’ve been out of work for six months.  You can also consult your network to see if anyone knows of any opportunities that might help you reduce your gap.  Never be afraid to ask for help.

Up until now you have probably been dreading the question, “So what have you been doing since you’ve been out of work.?”  If you take the right steps today, you will look confident and sound impressive when you’re answering that question.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stuart Miles/

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