This Is What No One Tells You About Having a Work Experience Gap

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Can a career gap hurt your chances of getting a job? 

How many of us get excited when we see job descriptions that match us perfectly but then lose hope when it says a minimum of 10 years of experience? It is intimidating, especially when there is a gap in our work experience. Most of us believe that experience is only acquired through a formal professional job. Just like the real education begins after college, real education can also be acquired through time off from work. A gap in the work experience does not necessarily mean we stopped learning and experiencing growth. The experiences we gather during our time off from work or in between jobs can be more valuable than a monotonous 9-5 desk job.

Most people could be unemployed for various reasons such as:

they are either laid off or fired, have health issues, move to another country or go through a difficult personal time. Moreover, they could simply be taking time off for reasons such as raising children, taking care of a sick family member or just staying at home to support their significant other. These moments could be used for reflection and to identify personal strengths and weaknesses.

A gap in work experience can actually make you a far better candidate!

On a resume, this may look like a lack of experience, but people who are not working could add much more value to themselves. Here are some examples of how you can use a gap in professional work experience and turn it into to something that fits a resume, cover letter or an interview:

  • Using your spare time for networking is a great experience itself. Focus on personal growth through interactions with other people. These aspects can be promoted on a resume as the ability to work in cross functional teams and be a better team member.

  • Looking after other people such as friends or family shows empathy, dedication, and selflessness. These characteristics are essential to any workplace environment. Empathy could be used as a skill that shows dedication to the employer. Sickness in the family shows the ability to perform under pressure.

  • Raising children can show leadership skills and discipline. Parents have to strategize and come up with effective techniques to teach the children about various aspects of life. This can be effectively shown as an ability to train others. Devising strategies to fit individual child’s needs means great analytical skills.

  • Battling a health condition and coming back to work shows resilience and perseverance. During sickness, people go through all kinds of thoughts and sometimes they wish for one more chance. They might be embracing their second chance and would be willing to work harder than anyone else. Furthermore, they may have acquired the ability to see the bigger picture.

  • Some people leave work because their significant other has to move to another place. Adjusting into a new place can be translated into great change management skills. Furthermore, meeting new people reflects adaptability. It also indicates great communication skills and potential global leadership skills.

  • Moving to a new country could also mean you might not be eligible to work, which leads to an experience gap. The transition to another country could be turned around into one of the biggest strengths. Problems solving skills are built while transitioning into an unknown zone.  Surviving in the unknown zone requires assessing a situation and devising solutions from it.

  • Simply time off from work could mean time for reading, listening to podcasts, traveling, networking and reflecting. These simple actions can substantially lead to enhanced creativity.

  • Getting laid off from work is not embarrassing, share your story. Lying about it or hiding it is never a good idea. Be truthful about your time off.  It shows integrity and honesty.

  • Being unemployed means you need to look at things from a different perspective, strategize and build your own personal brand to increase employability. This translates into marketing skills and brand management skills such as restructuring and rebuilding a brand and promoting it.

Experience does not just come from a formal job, it is built through each step in life!

It is essential to communicate with confidence the value acquired during the work experience gap. We constantly need to push ourselves a little further each day.  For example, read about your industry, enroll in free courses online such as MIT OpenCourseWare (https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm) or Open Yale Course (http://oyc.yale.edu/), volunteer, or just simply contribute to the society. It is essential to never stop growing.

Reevaluate your gap in work experience:

  • List the skills you have acquired.
  • Strategize and market to sell your potential.
  • Use your personal growth to communicate that the technical skills needed for a certain job can also be easily attainable due to the personal growth.
  • Word it in a way that reflects the value with confidence either on the resume or mention it in detail in the cover letter or an interview.

Also, remember if there is a gap in your work experience for valid reasons but the employee does seem to question your fit for the job, then you should reassess whether the job is the best fit for you or not. Your attitude should reflect that you are proud of your struggles or moments spent with family. This indicates a great work life balance and emotional stability. These skills are sometimes undervalued but are the most important aspects of a great employee and a great leader.

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