5 Tips for Finding Work after an Extended Period of Unemployment

While it’s certainly not an ideal scenario, the reality is that nearly all job-seekers will find themselves unemployed at some point in their career.  Many are able to pick up quickly and find the latest and greatest position. Others, however, may have a harder time scoring a new gig, leading to periods of extended unemployment on the resume.  Still other job-seekers have unemployment gaps due to personal, medical or family reasons. Whatever the case, if you find yourself with a less than continuous track record, we’ve got five tips for finding work after an extended period of unemployment.  

Explaining Work Gaps

The first and toughest hurdle to conquer when returning to the workforce after an extended absence is explaining to potential employers the reasons for your temporary exit.  An explanation, while not mandatory, will be useful in convincing new employers that you’re ready, willing, and able to pick up a new position.

It’s important to remember that “time off” or “a bad economy” are typically not going to be sufficient explanations to appease your employer.  In order to qualm any fears over a large gap on your resume, be sure to offer a thorough, concise and professional explanation for your work gap.  To help you get started, we’ve suggested ways to address some of the most common scenarios, below:

  • If you’ve spent some time freelancing or working in areas outside of your primary career field, be sure to list those along with a reason for the change.  Taking time to explore new options along another path typically isn’t going to be an issue as long as you provide your employer with assurances you’re committed to the position you’re applying for.
  • Want to focus more on your qualifications and less on your actual work timeline?  Consider using a functional resume format. This style of resume highlights your skills and relevant experience while glossing over dates which can help emphasize your suitability for a given position.
  • If you’ve spent time working for yourself, be sure to include a broad title of self-employment on your resume to account for your time outside of corporate America.  Most employers will understand and even appreciate the decision of self-employment. Working on your own brings a unique set of job skills including independence, initiative, and all-important drive.  Opportunistic applicants can use a period of self-employment as a positive and spin the career gap into a strength to help land a new 9-5.

As a final note for explanation of any job gap, whatever you do, avoid lying or being less than forthright about your time away from the career force.  An explanation up front will go much further than trying to backtrack when caught in a little white lie. Own the reason for your career gap and move on to your relevant experience and the reasons you’re the best candidate for the position.

Plan Ahead

If we’ve said it once we’ve said it a million times.  Before applying for a position or heading into the interview room, be sure to do your basic due diligence on the prospective employer.  A quick perusal of the company website or a Google search for the employer name can provide a wealth of valuable information to help carefully craft your job gap response.  

Does the company focus on family values and a commitment to work/life balance?  Your time off to raise your family or help out your ailing elderly relative will be completely understandable.  While in many cases you may want to play coy with how much information you offer up if it looks like the employer would be open to your specific scenario, feel free to share in either your resume or in the interview room.

Job Hunting Costs

Having an extended absence from the job market will often mean a bit of a larger investment in your initial search.  From travel to professional fees to even relocation expenses, these extra expenses can add up quick, especially when you don’t have an ongoing gig lined up.  Keep in mind that many of these expenses can be deductible from your income come tax season. Track all expenses and keep receipts in a central location where you’ll be able to consult, document and deduct if you qualify down the line.

Dealing with Money Problems

Being without a job isn’t most people’s preferred state.  Rent, food, entertainment and those pesky student loans can all wrack up big bills fast.  Whatever you do, avoid taking out additional lines of credit if you’re already strapped. Extra debt not only impacts your credit score, it can exponentially up the pressure to find a job, any job, which can seriously hinder efforts to find a great professional fit for yourself and career happiness.

Stay Positive

While it may seem a bit simplistic and obvious, it still needs to be said that the single best thing you can do to support yourself during an extended job gap is to stay positive.  You likely had great reasons for exiting the workforce to begin. Focus on these rather than berating yourself in hindsight and keep on plugging away at your attempts to find a new, better position.  Develop a routine and submit resumes and applications regularly to help feel accomplished and on task. Before you know it you’ll find yourself back in the interview room and back up in the saddle, landing a position that will help make your job gap a distant and educational memory.

Article Updated from the Original on April 17, 2018