The 21st century has been a turbulent one for the U.S. workforce. One of the consequences has been periods of unemployment for large bands of professionals across many industries.
Formerly spotless resumes had to contend with the problem of the dreaded gap – periods without employment. As the recession dragged on and unemployment lengthened, gaps grew both on paper and in the psyches of the unemployed. The gap became – and still remains – an obsessive and paralyzing fear.
Mind the Gap is a catchy phrase popularized by the London Underground. It alerts passengers to the potentially dangerous gap between the platform and railcar. They notice the gap, mindfully step over it and move on. Gap problem averted. This is a good strategy for professionals who are in possession of a significant work gap.
- Your first job is to make peace with your gap. This will likely come incrementally, but the work you do to build acceptance is vitally important. Gap-itis creates fear and paralysis. Until you fully embrace and understand your story, the corrupting feelings of guilt, shame, or fear will leak out and sabotage your efforts. When you make a decision to step into your life as it is, the resulting freedom leaves you available to focus on what’s most important – the value you bring and how you can help.
- Look for the value that you have acquired as a result of your gap time. For some, this is an easy task as they can point towards skills or knowledge gained through contract work, classes completed or roles played in volunteer projects. Others might have to look a little deeper. Possibly it’s the resourcefulness gained through enduring a life hardship or the clarity of where they want to devote their time and energy which can be a powerful driver for one seeking their next job.
- Address employer concerns about the gap. Research shows that the hesitance of employers regarding extended unemployment usually stems from one of three concerns- atrophying skill sets, an inability to assimilate into the new work world, or a lack of technological savvy — especially from older workers. With this information in hand, it is your job to demonstrate that you haven’t gone rusty, that you are not a grumpy old baby boomer, and that you are current and excited about the changes happening in the workplace.
The challenge of navigating a work gap is real. It can’t be swept under the rug hoping it won’t be there when you next look. It also is not a deal breaker… unless you let it be one. Mind your gap by doing your advance work, stepping over the danger and moving on. A job awaits you so don’t get left at the station.