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Addressing Gaps in Employment | How to Hack Your Next Job Search

"Mind the gap".
H. Michael Burgett
Contributing Writer

Recently I was speaking with a seven-figure executive regarding their job search. It had been 10 months since this leader had left their last role, and they were understandably concerned about how to best represent this gap in their resume and, more importantly, how to address this in conversations with potential employers.

The phrase “mind the gap,” originally used in the London Underground to caution passengers about the space between the train and the platform, has evolved into a metaphor for addressing discrepancies or gaps in various life situations. In the context of job searching, minding the gap in your employment history is a concern that transcends career levels, affecting even the most seasoned executives.

This individual, like many others, had never had to look for a job. Their career progression had been a series of internal promotions and recruitment into new organizations. This type of job search was uncharted territory for them, as it is for many of us when affected in such a manner.

So yes, even seasoned executives ask some of the same questions and have the same concerns as the rest of us when pursuing their next role.

While job seekers may initially have understandable angst about how long a search may take, little thought is given to crafting a placeholder on their resume at this starting point. Given that a search can often extend beyond one’s initial expectations, it would be prudent to plan how to best represent your current status at the outset. Additionally, if there are previous gaps in your work history, the strategies we share here may allow you to perform some needed maintenance on your resume, project portfolio, or online profile.

The Commonality of Career Pauses

There’s no doubt that gaps in employment history are to be expected. Throughout our careers, these may occur for a variety of reasons: lost employment, economic downturn, parental leave, caring for an aged parent, taking a sabbatical, and many other valid life events. The good news is that our culture is becoming more accepting of these reasons. However, since we can’t control how these gaps may be viewed by potential employers, it’s wise to be proactive.

In my coaching and advisement conversations, I regularly recommend creating a placeholder of sorts to account for these gaps. This allows you to define the employment gap and own it, unabashedly, while being well-prepared to provide an explanation if queried by a potential employer.

The key here is to show that you are continuing to move forward professionally during this period, much like the London Underground’s original intent of ensuring safe and continuous travel.

Strategies for Bridging the Gap

Here are some ways you may choose to represent this period:

  • Interim and Fractional Consultant as an Independent or with a Firm
  • Contributing Author and Thought Leader for a Publication
  • Peer Advisor and Thought Leader for an Industry Community
  • Adjunct or Volunteer for an Educational Organization
  • Pursuit of a Degree or Professional Certification
  • Professional Organization Peer Advisor, Volunteer, or Leadership Role
  • Board, Advisory, or Volunteer Role for a Non-Profit, Start-Up, or Corporation
  • Mentor, Coach, or Advisor to Recent Graduates in your Industry, Field, or Alma Mater

These are just a few thought starters for you as you define and own this gap. Whatever you choose, it must be accurate and defensible.

But lets be clear, these gap insertions should be done on your resume, online profile, and project portfolio where relevant. However and wherever you insert these, it will be important to make these entries as hefty and detailed, with duties, accomplishments, and actions as detailed as the employment entries in the same document. 

Rather than just a filler, this is an opportunity to demonstrate that even in these gap months or years, you have remained a go-getter and are now ready to bring that proactive mindset, resultant skills and experiences into a new organization.

This is the six in a series of articles for my upcoming book, “How to Hack Your Next Job Search”. For my readers, I will be sharing insight, observations, and specific coaching on how best to conduct a job search. These strategies are simple, yet diverge greatly from most traditional approaches. It is my goal to share a proven process and cultivate a mindset that will elevate you into the top 5% of job seekers in any particular market or industry.

I. Deciding to Take Action | How to Hack Your Next Job Search

II. Approaching Your Search Like a New Job | How to Hack Your Next Job Search

III. Begin With Realistic Expectations | How to Hack Your Next Job Search

IV. Rethink the Resume | How to Hack Your Next Job Search

V. Uncovering Hidden Job Opportunities | How to Hack Your Next Job Search

VI. Addressing Gaps in Employment | How to Hack Your Next Job Search

VII. Ace the Interview | How to Hack Your Next Job Search

VIII. Defining Your Personal Brand | How to Hack Your Next Job Search

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