In the years following the Great Recession, when employers were getting ten or twenty qualified applicants for every position, the key to getting a job was already having a job. If you were unemployed, if there were large gaps in your resume, your chances of even getting an interview were almost nil.
Fast forward to today and the situation is much different for employers. With unemployment below five percent, hiring decision makers can’t be as choosy, although that’s a lesson that’s been slow to sink in at some HR departments. Covering a large employment gap is still challenging but it’s not the automatic death sentence it once was.
With a little planning you can even turn a leave of absence into an overall positive for employers. A lot depends on why you’ve been off work but any gap can be managed with a little preparation these days.
Spending some time volunteering with a local charity or your kid’s school is a great way to transition back to the working world. The great thing is there’s no downside if you screw up the project. If you do well, it makes a great stepping stone to transition back to paid employment.
Taking classes and learning new skills that are valuable to employers is a great transition back to the working world. Skills that are particularly valuable today are spreadsheets, working with cloud datasets and program interfaces, customer service and data visualization skills. Taking classes will bring you up to speed on what skills employers are looking for a provide an important bridge to that new job.
Take An Internship
While it’s typically the first rung on the employment ladder for those fresh out of school, but the age range for interns has started to increase and both prospective employees and employers use intern positions as sort of a try it before you buy it arrangement. The IRS is scrutinizing internships a lot more carefully these days and six months is a fairly typical duration. If your employer hasn’t brought you aboard in that time frame, they’re never going to hire you. Even if it doesn’t work out at the company you intern with, it’s current job experience that you can use to go after other positions.
Sometimes employers have a concern about whether you’re going to be able to manage the workload and pace of the modern working world. Starting part-time can ease you both into the transition. Surprisingly, as the employment market tightens up, employers are having a harder time finding quality part-time employees.
Build Your Network
Despite the advent of the internet, the best jobs and best hires still come from who you know. While it seems a bit old fashioned in the age of social media and internet recruiting, the best opportunities still come from human to human contact. Building and tending a personal network takes time and that’s the one quantity everyone is short on these days. So, you have to keep your personal interactions short and focused. Don’t be that person who only shows up when they’re looking for a job. Show a genuine interest in your network and check-in once in awhile just to say hello and catch up. Having a wide network in the business community is better than gold when it comes to finding a new job.
Don’t be afraid to start looking if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while. Start by volunteering or taking some skills classes at the local community college. Getting back in when the labor market is tight will be easier than you think and employers will actually be glad to see you walk in the door.