Mr Ramesh is a senior professional having over 20 years of experience. For the last 2 years he has been on a break due to a Non-Compete Clause that he had to sign with his earlier firm. Now that that the clause period is over he is finding it difficult to explain the gap.
This is a unique instance of a gap I have come across. Typically the gaps are due to family emergencies, raising children, downsizing, and some times firing.
Employers become jittery when dealing with Gaps and sometimes justifiably so. What happens is that the employee in question is unable to fit into the changed workplace environment. This could be due to loss of morale as a result of compromises made to get back to active work. Sometimes it is not being current in their field , happens especially if the gap is over 2 years.
This is not to say that returning to work is hopeless. Plenty of executives have done just that and have done so successfully. One needs to strategize. To take care and plan on how you are going to explain the Gap in paper i.e your resume and during the interview.
Many candidates tend to run away from the situation. They tend to hide the gap hoping that it would somehow go un-noticed.
Don’t hide the fact be upfront about it.
Navy Seals as part of their training are supposed to swim in shark infested seas. Apparently the sharks don’t attack if you hold your ground. But if they do you are supposed to punch on their snout with all your might and swim away. This story might seem like an over-kill but the message is relevant – offence is the best form of defence. When you are facing your sharks ( the recruiter in this case) be proactive. Don’t punch him please; but – place the facts upfront.
Recruiters have the ability to smell out these white lies from a mile. Besides , it shows you in a bad light. Instead mention the gap, and the reason very briefly – less than 10 words. Unless specifically mandated the recruiters will shortlist your profile if the experience fulfils the job criteria.
Have a succinct factual explanation ready as to how you spent your time and what were your learnings which could come in handy for the position applied.
Suppose you were managing a sick parent and holding the family together your organisation and time management skills were being put to the test. You could mention that.
At the end of the day it is about confidence. Ironically when you are trying to get back into the work force after a prolonged gap – that is exactly what you might be running short on.
Companies place a lot more weight on the self – confidence the individual has. Giving a picture of being self assured reassures the firm that this person can deliver the goods. Sometime you just have to Fake it to Make it. Mopping around will not give the hiring firm the confidence to take you in.
So during the interview be frank and honest about the break and the learning’s from it and guide the interview towards the experience and skills you bring to the table. Ultimately that is what counts. Your experience relating to the work in question and your ability to deliver. The manner in which you are able to project that ability will be the deciding factor.
A little bit of advance planning can help you manage the Gap in such a way that it doesn’t show up at all in your resume. No I am not suggesting that you fudge your Cv. What you can do is to undertake activities that will indirectly help you in your job search.
Build Your Network. Stay in touch or reconnect with your old professional contacts. Professional contacts become dispersed to new positions, your coworkers would have moved on to new jobs and would be in a position to lend a hand to your search.
Get Active in Professional Associations. Become active in associations relating to your line of work by attending meetings, writing for the newsletter, acting as a goodwill ambassador and attending national conferences. Volunteer for activities relating to your career field.
Write for newspapers, and other trade related magazines. Writing is great way to display your expertise and increase visibility.
Attend training programs. Technology is changing and so are the tools. Every year something new is being added to existing lines of work. You could learn new skills in your field or add complimentary skills. Adding an additional degree can even help in opening up new career options.
Temporary/Part-Time work. Taking up part-time work helping out small businesses with their marketing or accounting work or just plain documentation will help you gain currency in the job market and eas your way into a fulltime role. Here it is better to be flexible on the compensation lest you lose focus on your ultimate goal which is to get into a fulltime role. I have known people who get into decently paying part-time role and then find it difficult to switch to the rigours of Full time work.
With an ever volatile workplace instances of career breaks are becoming quite common.They need not be feared. They are not the end of the world. With a bit of reflection and preparation will put you in a good position to actually come out as stronger more self-aware candidate.
And remember employers are more interested in your ability to deliver so don’t over think.
Prakash Francis is a talent expert based in Bangalore.