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Worried About the Gap in Your Resume? Here's How to Tackle It

Since spring, we’ve seen widespread devastation on a global scale with the Coronavirus pandemic, including in our businesses. Millions of people across the world have been struggling through job loss or furloughs, while attempting to juggle the upheaval to their health, financials, and families all at the same time.

To compound the stress, many displaced workers have become concerned with the unexpected gaps they now find on their resumes. Historically, unexplained periods of time have signaled to a potential employer that you may have been terminated or are for some reason unemployable. The good news?  Especially during this unique period of time, you are not alone.

The entire world has suffered from both the economic and health effects stemming from COVID. We've witnessed even the companies considered "unicorns" at the start of the year struggle with layoffs, so it is likely that your next employer will be incredibly empathetic and understanding of the blips in your career trajectory. Perhaps the question you ask yourself shouldn’t center on "how do I explain the gap in my resume?" but rather, "what did I do with that time to bolster my skills/knowledge so my next employer knows I’m able to still focus on development even during difficult times?".

Though many among us have chosen to focus on all the challenges this global pandemic has presented (the “2020 is a dumpster fire” attitude), it's also provided people - especially those out of work - with an opportunity to lean in and take accountability for their growth and development in a meaningful way. A quick Google search will unearth an abundance of tools and resources online and available (many free or low cost) to take advantage of. Why bother? Consider this:  if you are in an interview and asked "What have you been doing with your time since you were laid off?"... you'll want a substantial answer that goes beyond learning how to bake bread and bingeing the latest Netflix series. Taking the time to invest in developing skills, volunteering, etc. will go a long way towards crafting a story that screams, "I'm resilient, I made the best possible use of the time, and I'm ready to add impact to your company."

Simple Strategy To Start Filling In Your Gaps?

  • Look in the mirror: Identify where your gaps are, and create your own development plan. Unclear? While it may require a bit of vulnerability, ask former managers or colleagues for their insights on where you are strong, and where you might need to focus. If you can identify your strengths and challenge areas, then you can begin to craft a path to supplement those areas needing attention.
  • Don't just focus on the "hard skills."  Of course, taking that excel class or bolstering your project management skills could be incredibly beneficial. Also important, however, is ensuring you build on those core skills that may be impeding your progress. Functionally talented but can't find your voice? Invest your time developing your public speaking abilities.  Interested in managing others but have never had the opportunity?  Find ways to volunteer in the community (so many virtual opportunities exist right now) to mentor.
  • Adjust your attitude. There is no denying this has been a difficult year for nearly everyone, for a multitude of reasons. However, employers value resiliency and work ethic. If there was ever a year to revel living in sweats and enjoying some downtime, it’s now. However, to channel the words of the great Maya Angelou, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” Get up, dust yourself off, and get to work. You’ll thank yourself for those efforts when you score your next great job.

Losing your job and having gaps in your resume doesn’t have to fill you with anxiety. Rather, take a good hard look in the mirror, identify what's missing from allowing you to land the role of your dreams, and start investing your time in these areas. By doing so, you'll find you have plenty to include on your resume.

Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator