When you lose your job, it can take months, or even more than a year, to find a new gig. The longer you’re out of work, the more awkward a job interview can become, making you lose out on important experience in the workforce — as well as a steady paycheck. And what will your LinkedIn profile and resume look like with a six-month or longer gap?
Since we’d hate to see your career and long-term goals take a hit because of unexpected job loss, we have some resume tips to help you stand out from the crowd. So here are ways to keep busy during a job search and look like you’re actually working.
Get Your Head Around It Early
“I’ll get another job in 30 days. If I hold out for a really good gig, maybe two months.” No one thinks they’re going to be out of work for six months or longer, but it’s not uncommon that, as you climb the ladder, higher paying jobs aren’t as available. You might think the more valuable you are, the quicker you’ll get hired. But, unless you have a unique skill, are in a field that’s got a labor shortage or aren’t competing with peers who are protecting their cushy jobs, you might have to wait longer to find the right position.
What happens if you’re out of work for an extended period, taking temp jobs or quit a new gig that didn’t work out after a few weeks? You start to create a resume gap that might become a red flag to employers. They may ask questions like, “what took you so long to find employment? What have you been doing while you’re out of work?”
Let’s assume that you’re eminently qualified and will be employed shortly. Great. Take a short vacation, or at least a weeklong mental health break and have some fun. After you’re done doing that, assume the worst and get an early start on a serious job search and employment gap plan. Consider that you might be in a job search for the long haul. Make up your mind that it’s not a panic situation. The sooner you get your head around the fact that you might be looking for work for months, the less reactionary you’ll be when the months start to pass.
Assume the worst, hope for the best and you’ll be better able to handle a longer unemployment period.
Create A Financial Plan
It’ll be easier to focus on ways to avoid a resume gap after you’re more certain about your financial situation. Shortly after you find yourself out of work, review your finances to determine how long you can live without income. Look at ways in which you can start cutting back your spending and find alternative ways to make some side cash via odd jobs or temp gigs.
In the end, you might be right and be hired in 30 days. If so, what’s the harm in planning on a longer stretch of unemployment? It’s not like you have to sell your house or cash out your retirement plan the week after you become unemployed.
The best way to avoid a resume gap is to work. How can you do that if you’re out of a job? Volunteer and donate your skills to a nonprofit that’s meaningful to you.
For example, the local animal shelter or food bank might have an amateur website. If you’re a designer, programmer or content creator, you can offer to upgrade the site or an area of the site in exchange for a reference.
If you work in finance, offer to help a small nonprofit upgrade it’s accounting, create a cash-flow budget or file its taxes. If you work in HR, offer to help create an employee handbook or give resume tips, job descriptions for each position the organization has or create a voluntary benefits program.
You don’t have to limit your volunteerism to non-profits, either. Look at local small businesses that could use some help. Many entrepreneurs are very good at what they do (i.e. making widgets), but aren’t great business people. You might be able to swap services and get your landscaping done or house painted in exchange for your services.
As an added bonus, all of this volunteer work can be listed on your resume and LinkedIn page as consulting work. When you’re interviewing, recruiters don’t need to know that you’ve been working for free. All you need to do is tell them about the project you’ve been overseeing as a consultant.
Upgrade Your Skills
There’s no better way to show a potential employer that you’re committed to your profession than by improving your job-related skills. If you’re not certified, consider attaining that status sooner rather than later. Take a night class in your field at a local community college, go to a tech boot camp, attend industry events like seminars, workshops, conferences and trade shows. You’ll often meet peers who know of job openings or who can become valuable members of your professional network. When you’re busy with work-related skill building, your employment gap won’t seem to be as much of a gap.
“After I left my last job, I took time off to get certified.”
This is a legitimate reason for a resume gap, making it seem more like a short sabbatical that you used to improve your job skills. That makes you more valuable to an employer and less of a bounce risk.
Lastly, don’t forget to manage your network, build your soft skills and work on your career plan during this time. Get resume tips, attend networking events and schedule informational interviews during this time, too, because the more you know, the more you grow.
Lead image via Getty