Until recently, executive recruiters and employers shied away from candidates with long employment gaps . . . especially if those gaps were current. They were more attracted to people who were employed.
But things are changing . . . whether because of the pandemic with so much job loss, or because so many more people have had to put their jobs on hold to care for family members.
According to LinkedIn:
“The stigma of employment gaps is already starting to fade. While 72% of job seekers believe there’s a stigma associated with having a career gap, 79% of hiring managers today would hire a candidate with a career gap on their resume.”
Are You a Stay-at-Home Caregiver?
If you have an employment gap because you’ve been caring for a family member, Marc Miller of Career Pivot has some suggestions:
“Employers are presently more accepting of a career gap. That is as long as you can explain you were doing something productive, gaining new skills, and staying competitive. You will need to reframe your year(s) of being out of the workforce in job-related terminology.”
He noted some of the multiple employment roles with transferrable skills that caregivers typically fill:
- Project Manager – They have to coordinate with the many tasks dealing with Medicare, doctors, hospitals, nursing facilities, medication, and many other arcane complexities.
- Transportation Coordinator – Many who are caring for their parents also have children still at home. Figuring out how everyone gets to where they need to be while at the same time caring for an elderly parent can be mind-boggling.
- Financial Planner – If you’re the caregiver of an elderly parent or relative, you’re probably managing their finances. And anyone who has had to probate a will or act as the executor of a will can tell you how incredibly complicated it is.
LinkedIn Has Options for Stay-at-Home Caregivers
To accommodate all the people who have temporarily stopped working to care for someone full time, LinkedIn has made changes to the Profile:
“We introduced new job titles, including ‘stay-at-home mom,’ ‘stay-at-home dad’ and ‘stay-at-home parent’ to allow full-time parents and caretakers to more accurately display their roles.
Additionally, in the coming weeks, if you use one of these new stay-at-home job descriptions and set the employment type field to ‘self-employed,’ you will no longer need to specify a company or employer.
And in the near future, we’ll also add a new field specifically for employment gap types to the Profile like ‘parental leave,’ ‘family care’ or ‘sabbatical,’ so that people can address any gaps in their career journey.”
Several career experts, recruiters and hiring managers weighed in on LinkedIn on how job seekers should approach breaks in work history:
- Be transparent about any breaks in your work history resulting from the pandemic.
- Prepare a narrative around how you spent the time outside the workforce.
- However, consider the pros and cons of mentioning the reason for the gap in your resume.
A Simple Tip for Employment Gaps
It’s difficult to fill in past employment gaps, after the fact. Savvy executives plan ahead to accommodate or shorten potential gaps, should they arise.
But I can offer one strategy to downplay past employment gaps:
On both your executive resume and LinkedIn profile, use years for employment length, not months.
This is standard practice and can cover up fairly long gaps.
For example, if your career history includes a gap like this:
Company X – May, 2008 to February, 2017
Company Y – September, 2018 to Present
Switch to years only:
Company X – 2008 to 2017
Company Y – 2018 to Present
The actual gap of more than one year is not at all obvious. Of course, never lie about dates. And be prepared to discuss any gaps in interviews.
Preemptive Tactics to Avoid Employment Gaps
Ideally, you want to be compensated for any work you do, but that may not happen. Because your goal is to fill those gaps on your executive resume and LinkedIn profile, do your best to find work that is consistent with your personal brand and unique value proposition to your target employers. Then this experience will be of greater value to them.
Here are some suggestions:
- Go back to school, either online or in-person, and take courses or earn certifications to upgrade relevant skills.
- Secure temp work.
- Find consulting gigs or interim work, or set up a consulting firm and take on relevant assignments.
- Volunteer at charities, schools, hospitals, civic groups, etc. Even though you probably won’t be paid, this kind of work definitely counts as professional experience.
Why Volunteering is a Great Option for Most Job Seekers
Organizations almost always need volunteers. You can probably slide into this kind of work very quickly.
Beyond closing employment gaps, here are a few of the many benefits of volunteering:
- Volunteering affords some terrific networking opportunities.
- Serving on the Board of Directors of an organization, or in some degree of leadership, may put you elbow to elbow with people who are hiring decision makers or connected in some way to your target companies or industry.
- Volunteering takes advantage of one of the essential and most powerful principles of networking – give to get.
- Your generosity and good work build good will and evangelism for your personal brand and keep you top of mind with your network and your community. People who see evidence of your efforts, especially if you don’t shy away from the grunt work, will likely be happy to help you out when you need them.
- Volunteering builds your credibility and reinforces your subject matter expertise.
- You may already be known as the “go-to” person within your industry for your functional areas of expertise. Spread that notoriety across your network. Be sure to post updates on LinkedIn and other social media regularly about your experience.
Volunteering Can Lead You Into More Rewarding Work
You can never underestimate the good feeling you get from sharing your expertise to help others. And won’t it be gratifying if you get something tangible, like a solid lead or two, in return?
Your volunteer efforts may open you to new career directions that you had never considered before.
If you’re at an impasse in your executive job search because you’re dissatisfied with what you’ve been doing, or jobs within your industry have dried up, it may be time to reinvent yourself and re-think your approach to earning a living.
The new connections you make through volunteering can lead to a transition into a more rewarding career.