Unemployed for More Than 6 Months? How to Fill That Gap on Your Resume

WorkCoachCafeIf you have been unemployed for more than 6 months, you have a gap to fill on your resume.  Do it with activity that supports you and your job search.  Avoid staying in your home, hands on the keyboard all day.  That’s not the way that most people find a job, and it can be very discouraging and lonely.  Stay involved in work, and also stay up-to-date in your field.  Involvement is great for networking.  It’s also great for your market value – demonstrating the value you bring to an employer.  

Staying up-to-date and showing potential employers that you are up-to-date is very important, particularly if you haven’t been fully employed for a while.

And, last, but NOT least, it’s great for your morale. Yes – you CAN do  things valued by employers! You might even get paid!

Sounds great!  How do you accomplish this?

You Have Options

1.  Sign up with a temporary agency for work in your target field (or as close as you can get) and/or for one of your target employers.

This is a foot-in-the-door move plus a paycheck while filling in a gap.  Excellent combination!

Many employers hire temporary help while they wait to see if business improves to the point that adding permanent staff is appropriate.  The temporary work may become permanent (often called temp-to-perm).  If you don’t have any experience in your target field, this may be difficult or you may need to start on the “bottom rung” or in a job related to your target field.  If you can’t find experience in a related field, try finding any temporary position at one of your target employers. 

The beauty of this is that you can build a reputation with the temporary agency, have an opportunity to try-before-you-buy with new employers (and vice versa), and it is, of course, great networking. You will meet new people, experience new work environments, learn more about what you like (and don’t like), and demonstrate your skills and knowledge.  Maybe, you’ll even create an accomplishment or two (or more) for your resume and LinkedIn Profile.  Certainly you will fill in an employment gap.

If possible, sign up with more than one agency, and visit their offices to see how they work.  Be sure you are comfortable with them before you sign anything.

2.  Go after contract assignments in your target field (or as close as you can get) and/or for one of your target employers if you can’t get temporary work.  

Hiring contract workers is a popular way for many companies to get important work done without adding permanent staff, similar to the temporary agency approach.  Sometimes this can be through an agency as well.  It depends on your field and your target market.

As with temporary agency work, this is a combination foot-in-the-door with a paycheck.  It may also demonstrate that you set up your own business.  Excellent!

This usually requires assistance from a network or excellent social media skills.  Build an online portfolio of your work (LinkedIn is excellent for this!), and add the URL to your business cards (make business cards).  

You will need to do some important administrivia – keeping very good records of your “business expenses” separate from “personal expenses,” and in the USA, it’s probably a good idea to register a “DBA” (Doing Business As) with your local town government.  You will also probably need to market your services – join the local Chamber of Commerce, or at least go to a meeting or two, and also connect with industry/professional organizations relevant to your target market.

Read every contract very carefully before you sign it!  Preferably, have an attorney or someone experienced with contracts review it first. 

If you are already well-known in your field, contracting may be very easy, and it may be a permanent change for you from employee to entrepreneur.

3.  Volunteer at a related non-profit for temporary work and volunteer assignments.  

Non-profit organizations almost always need help.  So do political campaigns and organizations that support important local issues (from food banks to cancer research).  Sometimes even local governments can accept free assistance.  Or, perhaps the school your child attends needs some parental assistance.  Look around to see what is available where you live.  Sometimes the work is paid.  Often it is unpaid.

Choose carefully and purposefully.  If your goal is a position in marketing in “the real world,” target that kind of position for your volunteering – help with the marketing.  Stick with organizations or causes that are meaningful to you in a positive way – don’t volunteer to help (or hurt) a political candidate you don’t believe in.

Activity Offers Benefits

The goal with all of this activity is to fill a gap on your resume.  And, it also offers you an opportunity to get out into the marketplace – demonstrating your value (to yourself and to others), building your self-confidence, adding to your skills, and helping you be as up-to-date and current as you can be.  All of those make you more appealing to potential employers.

For More on This Subject

Why volunteer If It Doesn’t Lead Directly to a Job?

How I Got My First Job in Non-Profit

Handling Those Job Search Blues

Job Morphing: 20 Ways You Can Improve Your Job and Career

How Can a Recent Grad Explain Lack of Related Experience

What Are Transferable Skills?

Why You Didn’t Get the Job: 10 Reasons You Can Control

 

© Copyright, 2012, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.

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About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been  observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on .

 

Comments

  1. hi! just want to seek your intelligent answer on job interview questions on what do i consider as my greatest accomplishment in life and in my career so far? can u help me on this. what should i best answer them. thanks and more power.! i’ve been working in a bank for several years now and i was promoted to an officer position recently now im applying to other company to seek a better opportunity. what answer should i best gave the interviewer on this question? thanks.

    • chandlee says:

      Hi Arthur,

      As I do not know your life story or your experience, I cannot advise you on this. You may be able to generate some ideas by studying videos and other material on interviewing. The best answer typically addresses both what you can do in terms of the job itself — and what you’ve done that shows a glimpse of yourself.

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

  2. Wrong advice on volunteering. If you are not hurting for money, then go do it. I am hurting for money and not going to volunteer since that will not pay the bills. Temp agencies are becoming just as bad as the employers because they only want to hire you with experience as I am trying to get into temp work.

    • chandlee says:

      Marquis,

      Thanks for weighing in. You are correct: whether to volunteer or not to volunteer is a matter of choice for most, but it’s also a chance for many to learn the skills needed to transition into a paid position.

      Good luck,
      Chandlee

  3. marquis says:

    I agree. Like I told professionals, for me and my issues, it is not a matter of choice. Sure, I could utilize learning new skills, but not when you are in such severe financial stress you can not afford to work for free. I found out at the workshops I attended, if you volunteer it doesn’t really count as experience unless it relates to your field then you can put in your resume ‘other relevant experience.’

    The trainer said other than that, it has to be paid work experience. I said no wonder with those who are volunteering are not being taken seriously in the interviews all because it was “not paid work.” I talked to people on linkedin who have volunteered multiple times and still didn’t land a job within the nonprofit sector or elsewhere how interesting.

    • chandlee says:

      Marquis,

      I respectfully disagree with the trainer at your workshop. If you do volunteer experience directly related to what you want to do for work — put in your resume with current dates, and in the last line of the description of what you do for them say “Work performed on a volunteer basis.”

      The job search is a marathon, not a sprint. Hang in there, and if things are financially tight — you may want to also look for short-term ventures you can perform in the interim.

      Good luck,
      Chandlee

  4. I have social anxiety which has created a big career issue. I have never had a job at the age of 24. I don’t have a network or really any references. I have a bachelor’s in business. However, I did not develop relationships with any of the professors. I really don’t know what I want to do. I was always interested in houses/real estate. The town I live in is very small; so, there are not that many opportunities. I have applied at temp agencies, fast food, and the local convenience /grocery stores. I tried to volunteer but everyone I have called so far has said they don’t have any opportunities available. I was also thinking about AmeriCorps; however, they probably won’t hire without experience either. Any advice?

    • chandlee says:

      Hi,

      Thanks for writing and for sharing your situation. You are not the first to experience this, and simply sharing your situation helps others who are in a similar situation.

      If you have social anxiety, you may want to explore opportunities that have an amount of interaction you feel comfortable with…One way you may want to begin is to look for a paid internship or temporary job which will allow you the time to try out a job for a set period of time so that you can see how comfortable you feel with the environment. One way to find these and work from home opportunities, is to check out a site called FlexJobs.com (it’s a paid site, but they verify all the opportunities listed on the site).

      I do believe AmeriCorps hires for entry level positions; another great program is City Year. Participating in these types of programs can be great as there is often a structured way to meet new friends and colleagues.

      Good luck and keep us posted.

      All the Best,
      Chandlee

  5. marquis says:

    I just looked at Americorps, looks interesting, but I am over 24 as I am 26 years old. I couldn’t go to their programs anyway. I saw a nonprofit who claim they help those who need work haven’t been to them yet.

    • chandlee says:

      Hi Marquis,

      I recommend you visit Job-Hunt.org and read their job search advice and strategies; they provide a good overview of local and national resources — as well as job search strategy and advice for people who haven’t done a lot of interviewing.

      Good luck and keep us posted.

      All the Best,
      Chandlee

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