How to Address Gaps in Your Employment History by Michael M DeSafey

So you have a gap in your employment history. Maybe you have more than one. Maybe these gaps lasted longer than you intended due to circumstances which were beyond your control. There's no way to hide it when submitting an application, so why not embrace the intermission and sell it right alongside your education and experience?

With construction, engineering and environmental positions being in such high demand, when you sit down to interview with the person who potentially holds your future in his or her hands, it's critical that you have arrived prepared to discuss the blemishes in your employment history. Just how do you prepare for such a discussion, though?

If you are fortunate enough to have a few days or more before the big day, spend some time geared toward recalling what you actually did throughout the entirety of the gap(s). Write down everything that comes to mind. Did you go back to school or take a specialized course somewhere? Did you start a family? Did you spend time independently educating yourself or performing research of any kind? Were you doing anything that could be considered freelance?

When you feel comfortable that your reflection is as complete as possible, take a look at what you've scrawled in front of you. Read it back to yourself aloud. Chances are reasonable that you have one or more of the above-mentioned activities in your past, and each one of them is a perfectly acceptable explanation for any lapses in employment.

Let's surmise for a moment, however, that you simply needed a break from the grind for a while. As an engineer, your job is mentally draining and demanding of your time and as someone in construction, your job is physically demanding and maybe the bureaucratic policies within your company have you mentally drained. The not-so-technical term for time off work in this instance is "burnout".

With increased pressure from activists and the general health community, it is now more acceptable than ever to take time off for mental health. Everyone needs to regroup occasionally, and the time it takes to do so will vary from person to person. Keep in mind, however, that a year off for mental maintenance may raise a few eyebrows. It's best to keep this explanation for the shorter gaps whenever you can.

During an important interview, how do you go about portraying to your prospect that these little chasms are nothing about which they should worry? The answer is simple, yet perhaps difficult for some to execute. Confidence is your best friend during these fragile moments, and a well-rehearsed monologue for each questionable rift are the proverbial golden tickets for being able to walk out of your meeting with a head held high.

What if you lack confidence, or are simply the sort of person who freezes up during interviews? A couple of easy exercises done solo or with a partner will help shake those nerves.

First, and perhaps most importantly, practice speaking while smiling. According to Forbes, smiling helps to stimulate your own sense of well-being, in turn boosting your confidence. If you aren't comfortable exchanging role-play banter with a partner, use a mirror to help remind yourself to smile. Smiling should also never be forced, and a fake smile is noticeable.

Remember the time you gave your wife a sweatshirt that you thought she'd really love, and when she saw it, the smile on her face made it obvious that she'd rather throw it in the fireplace than even wear it to bed?

You're not alone in being able to notice a pseudo-grin, so if you find yourself having trouble smiling while you speak, try picturing something in the back of your mind that would make you show some friendly teeth. And if that doesn't work, the fact that you've been chosen to interview with this next company should, if nothing else, be enough to get you smiling.

Secondly, try to remember that if the reasons for the voids on your resume are due to decisions that you've made, you need to own them. While employers don't necessarily jump for joy when they notice these things, most of them respect the courage it takes to display concise honesty about why you chose to not work for a while, and they'd rather hear about how you took that year off to go train touring through cheese country than a stumbling made-up excuse that's as easy to see through as expensive crystal.

According to Career Builder, no matter how you utilized your time off, employers want to know that you've used it as a period of self-reflection. As elegantly and matter-of-factly as possible, detail how you made this time work for you rather than against you and include anything that you have learned about yourself and the industry while you were out of the game.

The list you made earlier which encompasses all the things you did while off work should now help you compose the monologues we talked about just a few moments ago. You may not use it as such, but think of this as a sort of sales proposal, and the product you're selling is yourself. Include mentions of knowledge or experience you gained during the gap and explain how, through you, it will directly benefit the company.

Rehearse this to the best of your ability so you can speak completely off-book when addressing your prospect's concerns regarding time between jobs. It's almost a guarantee that your interviewer will have a copy of your resume in front of them while you converse; perhaps marked up in choice places with noticeable red ink to assist them in remembering what to ask about. It's also dire that you are certain that you haven't been dishonest by omission on your resume. As stated earlier, if you have gaps, you need to own them, and that means not conveniently forgetting to include the dates you served at each of the jobs on your resume.

Whether to include months and years or simply the years through which you worked with a particular company is up for debate, but according to Jim Giammatteo on LinkedIn, you should never leave the months out of your resume because lies simply have no place on a resume, and it's easy to get caught if you fudge something such as dates. "Every gatekeeper and every headhunter I know gets suspicious when they see only years listed on a resume," Jim says.

For the best resume formatting tips and great advice on how to make sure you're doing everything you can to dazzle your prospects, along with anything you need to know about properly addressing any questionable entries on your resume, get in touch with Webuidl Resumes. We'll help build your resume, your confidence and your future.

Michael DeSafey is a leading executive recruiter for professionals in the construction, engineering and environmental industries. He is currently the President of Webuild Staffing. To learn more about Michael or to follow his blog please visit Michael DeSafey

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