Thursday, May 19, 2011

3 Tips to Plug a Gap in Your Resume

As I was watching ABC News last night, I listened intently to its report on how long-term unemployed Americans are facing an unfair - but for the most part legal - discrimination in the job market. Employers have included the following phrase (or something similar) in their job postings: "Must be currently employed."

In other words, if you've been out of work more than six months, don't even think about sending a resume because you're damaged goods, and if no one else will hire you, why should we?

What was even worse was an employer's response to a reporter's question on why the phrase is in the posting: "That's what many employers do." My initial response as I shook my head? "So, if many employers were jumping off a cliff ... "

As if it's hard enough being tossed out of work through no fault of your own.

But this underscores a hard and valuable lesson for the millions of Americans out of work, whether it's been a week or a year: Don't sit around doing nothing! You need to stay in the game by doing at least one of the following while you search for new full-time jobs:

  • Line up freelance or contract work. It may not be consistent, but if you can do something to bring in at least a little money, you can maintain your skills or build new ones. And you have something to add to your resume.
  • Volunteer. If you have a cause you're passionate about, and it can benefit from having someone with your skills and background, contact someone at an appropriate non-profit. This website - VolunteerMatch - acts as a recruiting tool for thousands of non-profits.
  • Go back to school or obtain a certification. Can you improve your chances of landing the kind of job you want by taking a course or two? Adding a technical certification? Going back to school for a bachelor's or master's degree? Surf the web for both online and in-class opportunities.

The lesson here is that doing something is better than doing nothing. And if you're facing a lengthy unemployment, it's up to you to fill the "gap" that will eventually appear on your resume if you do nothing. The fleeting nature of jobs and changes in corporate goals and strategies have all but killed the concept of "job longevity." It's up to you, the job seeker, to manage your career rather than have your employers manage it for you.

If you're unemployed, how have you kept yourself busy? Tell me in a comment below.

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