You may be in job-search limbo, but you can still make strides in your career.
There are many reasons why you may have a gap in your career. Maybe you are made redundant; maybe you want to take a year off to travel; perhaps you need to care for a family member; maybe you're simply in between jobs. Whatever the reason, it's important that your career gap doesn't negatively affect your job prospects as you try to return to the workforce.
If you're in the midst of a career gap, you can utilise your newfound free time effectively to set yourself up for success in your job search. Here's how you can productively fill a career gap.
Plan for the future
If you've been out of the workforce for a while, returning to an office environment can feel incredibly daunting. Whilst the job-search arena appears competitive, creating a plan of attack puts you in the best possible mental position to face it head-on; just the very act of committing goals to paper gives them extra legitimacy. In terms of planning, try to set specific timeframes for achieving your objectives. This will keep you on track, and provide the impetus to keep you progressing. Break down your goals, work out the steps to achieve them and take action ‒ the rest will take care of itself.
Cultivate your network
The days when job applications involved bulk buying stamps to send them in blind are officially over. Today, it's all about networking contacts. The old adage 'It's not what you know, but who you know' certainly comes to the fore.
If you're in a gap in your career and you know that you'll eventually want to return to work, staying social and pursuing networking opportunities is crucial. Whether that comes in the form of attending networking events or regularly catching up with past colleagues for coffee, finding a new job is much easier when you have a referral. And when an HR manager asks what you've been doing on your break, you can impress them by talking about your networking prowess and how involved in the industry you've remained.
Leverage the power of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is such a powerful networking tool that it deserves special attention.
In addition to easily staying connected with colleagues and employers, you can use the site to expand your network by commenting on posts and staying active in groups. Additionally, you can use LinkedIn to build your personal brand and establish yourself as an authoritative figure in your field. Start by posting your own content to share the unique perspective you have on your industry.
Employers will be impressed when they search for your LinkedIn profile and find that you are passionate about your field and committed to professional development.
Whilst job-search websites and job boards provide a wide range of roles to peruse, if there's a company you've dreamed of working at, take the leap and ask! Sending out speculative applications not only shows you take the initiative, but it also gives you a head start if the company or hiring manager is indeed thinking of hiring.
Before you take that step though, always aim to research as much about each company as possible. Note down any interesting insights you come across in your endeavours, and use these little titbits in your pitches. Think strategic super sleuthing, and you can't go wrong!
Upgrade your skills
Upskilling is a great option for professionals who experience a career gap, such as redundancy or sudden termination, and want to rejoin the workforce sooner rather than later. Take a short course on a particular skill or software, sign up for online training, or take a professional development course ‒ there are so many options both online and offline that you can utilise whilst on a break that will help you stay productive and focussed as you search for your next opportunity.
Sites such as The Open University provide access to a variety of modules for free, as well as some invaluable resources to help you further your career. Whether you prefer to learn through video tutorials or listen to lessons via podcast, the options are truly endless.
The fact that you've used your career break to further your skills and reposition yourself as a competitive candidate will reflect positively on your ability and work ethic.
Unemployment can give you the time and headspace to indulge in untapped talents or skills. Perhaps you're a closet crafter whose creations have been complimented by friends, or maybe you're a serial foodie who loves nothing better than to experiment in the kitchen and give Gordon Ramsay a good run for his money.
Use your career break to explore other avenues of work to keep you occupied. Keep the momentum going by offering your services in a freelancing capacity or launching a small side business that aligns with your passion or hobbies. Leverage your network to get a client base started and you can make some extra money whilst searching for other job opportunities. Plus, it will look and sound great when you're ready to return to full-time work.
Volunteer or intern
A career break can be a good opportunity to get involved in your community by volunteering at a local charity. Alternatively, if you want to keep your career in focus, you could try applying for intern positions within your field or volunteering at industry events.
Sites like 10times will show you upcoming events, and you can run a Google search for volunteering opportunities in your city. Not only would this look great on your CV, but it could also be a wonderful opportunity to meet new people and make important connections.
Consider a professional cover letter and CV-writing service
What better way to be productive during the job-search process than to invest energy into your CV? And when it comes to this essential document, first impressions matter. From spotting grammatical errors to advising on format, a free CV critique is a great way to enhance your prospects and get noticed. It will help you get objective feedback on the ways you've listed your skills and expertise, alongside personalised recommendations for tailoring your CV to your particular niche.
You can even take it a step further and purchase a CV rewrite from a professional CV-writing service. Rather than try to decipher all the feedback yourself, you can trust a professional CV writer to use their experience and expertise to craft a CV that stands out from the crowd for all the right reasons. That will get you to the interview room and back in the game far faster than you ever imagined.
Despite what you may have heard, a career gap doesn't have to work against you ‒ it's all about how you use your time. If you can stay productive, career-focussed and actively pursue opportunities that come your way, there's no reason why it should hinder you in your job search.
Ready to boost your job-search productivity? Learn more about TopCV's professional CV-writing services.
This article was updated in February 2021. It contains work written by Rikki Wimmer.