It’s an unfortunate situation for executive job seekers.
Executive recruiters and others assessing you through your executive resume and LinkedIn profile may red-flag you if they see long stretches of time, say a year or more, unaccounted for . . . especially if that gap is current.
Employers are typically more attracted to employed candidates.
Also unfortunate – it’s difficult to fill in past employment gaps, after the fact. Savvy executives plan ahead to accommodate or shorten potential gaps, should they arise
But I can offer one strategy to downplay past employment gaps, if my preemptive tactics outlined below don’t work for you:
On both your executive resume and LinkedIn profile, use years for employment length, not months. This is standard practice and can cover up fairly long gaps. For example, if your career history includes a gap like this:
Company X – May, 2008 to February, 2012
Company Y – September, 2013 to Present
Switch to years only:
Company X – 2008 to 2012
Company Y – 2013 to Present
This gap of 19 months is not at all obvious. Of course, never lie about dates. And be prepared to discuss any gaps in interviews.
Preemptive Tactics to Avoid Employment Gaps
Ideally, you want to be compensated for any work you do, but that may not happen. Because your goal is to fill those gaps on your executive resume and LinkedIn profile, do your best to find work that is consistent with your personal brand and unique value proposition to your target employers. Then this experience will be of greater value to them.
Here are some suggestions:
- Go back to school, either online or in-person, and take courses or earn certifications to upgrade relevant skills.
- Secure temp work.
- Find consulting gigs or interim work, or set up a consulting firm and take on relevant assignments.
- Volunteer at charities, schools, hospitals, civic groups, etc. Even though you probably won’t be paid, this kind of work definitely counts as professional experience.
Why Volunteering is a Great Option for Most Job Seekers
Organizations almost always need volunteers. You can probably slide into this kind of work very quickly.
Beyond closing employment gaps, here are a few of the many benefits of volunteering:
→ Volunteering affords some terrific networking opportunities.
→ Serving on the Board of Directors of an organization, or in some degree of leadership, may put you elbow to elbow with people who are hiring decision makers or connected in some way to your target companies or industry.
→ Volunteering takes advantage of one of the essential and most powerful principles of networking – give to get.
→ Your generosity and good work build good will and evangelism for your personal brand and keep you top of mind with your network and your community. People who see evidence of your efforts, especially if you don’t shy away from the grunt work, will likely be happy to help you out when you need them.
→ Volunteering builds your credibility and reinforces your subject matter expertise.
→ You may already be known as the “go-to” person within your industry for your functional areas of expertise. Spread that notoriety across your network. Be sure to tweet and post LinkedIn updates regularly about your experience.
→ You can never underestimate the good feeling you get from sharing your expertise to help others.
→ And won’t it be gratifying if you get something tangible, like a solid lead or two, in return?
→ Your volunteer efforts may open you to new career directions that you had never considered before.
If you’re at an impasse in your executive job search because you’re dissatisfied with what you’ve been doing, or jobs within your industry have dried up, it may be time to reinvent yourself and re-think your approach to earning a living.
The new connections you make through volunteering can lead to a transition into a more rewarding career.