Employment histories aren’t always neat and tidy. People are downsized, quit toxic jobs, or go on leave for personal reasons. Yet the expectation is that everyone transitions seamlessly between positions.
To candidates with a growing employment gap, that expectation can feel like they’re facing the Rio Grande without a clear place to cross. However, take charge and stay active during your hiatus, and there’ll be plenty of stepping stones to connect you to your next great opportunity.
Surviving Employment Gaps
What dooms professionals during employment gaps is that they let their drive go dormant. Regular employment offers a purpose. Unemployment strips some people of that. Reentering the labor force is only tough if those with employment gaps failed to find some purpose in the interim.
What most people don’t consider is that employment gaps offer windows for unique growth. You can diversify your skills, refine your existing talents, and even make remarkable connections. Your opportunities are only limited by your resourcefulness.
Get Reeducated. On the surface, it may seem costly to expand your education while unemployed. Finances are usually tight. However, there is a world of free, cheap, and subsidized opportunities available to you.
a.) Free Courses – The web is filled with free ways to educate yourself. Kahn Academy and Coursea are the two main multidiscipline free learning sites. Code Academy can help you learn computer programming essentials. Accounting Coach offers lessons to aspiring bookkeepers and accountants. Whatever you want to learn, there’s a website for it.
Many of these websites even give you a chance to earn a verified certificate at the end of the course. It shows you weren’t complacent during your employment gap and looks incredible on a resume.
b.) Education Grants – Looking to return to community college or university courses during your time away from work? There is a plethora of grants available to returning and unemployed students.
For example, if your job was eliminated due to outsourcing, you may qualify for retraining assistance under the Trade Adjustment Assistance grant. Federal Pell Grants and other financial awards are available to students, both traditional and nontraditional, looking to defer the hefty cost of higher education.
Volunteer. According to national statistics, there are 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the United States. Chances are there is an organization nearby that can use your professional skills or your personal strengths.
How do you find the best volunteering opportunity during your employment gap? Odds are that you already know about a few non-profits. Websites Volunteer Match and the IRS’ Charity database can connect you to accredited charities based on your interests. Then, reach out and find which organization needs your technical skills.
People from various backgrounds and experiences will cross your path every day you volunteer. Network with them. Anyone who has seen your work ethic in action will be a more ardent advocate of what you can do.
By volunteering during an employment gap, you show that you aren’t content to just sit and wait for the next opportunity to swim by. All along you were out growing your skills, networking, and making a difference.
Freelance. Just because you’re in the middle of an employment gap doesn’t mean your revenue stream needs to come to a complete halt. Contract, consulting, or freelancing work can help to fill in the gaps themselves.
oDesk, Elance, Freelancer, and other freelancing websites can connect you will opportunities that fit with your background and current availability. By taking on these projects, you can diversify your portfolio and acquire new skills in the process.
Moreover, freelancing opportunities can help you to build your network as you connect with new clients and earn testimonies worthy of your work.
Employment Gaps Depend on You
In the end, whether or not an employment gap helps or hurts your career depends on what you make of the time you’re given. Nothing needs to stand in your way if you are committed to solving the problems facing you and pushing yourself.
by James Walsh