How to Address Gaps in Your Employment History
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.