Many years ago, I wrote about not falling under the spell of thinking your unemployment is an excuse for an extended “vacation” from work. This is especially true if it is the summer or holiday season and you have severance, unemployment, or even some savings to tide you over for a while.

The reality is that things have not changed much and the longer your resume shows you are between jobs, the redder the flag becomes next to your name. Now this does not mean that you won’t get hired depending on your overall candidacy and the quality of the labor pool for this job, but it may be more difficult for you.

So, given this potential challenge it makes sense to either work hard to shorten this hole in your resume, or to fill the time with meaningful activities that you can share with the Hiring Manager of a prospective employer. Be prepared to be asked about any extended gaps of unidentified time. It is hard to hide a gap in employment. You could convert to a functional resume, but that is much different than what most Recruiters have seen and used in the past. When a Recruiter sees either a functional resume or one without dates on it, he or she usually becomes immediately suspicious regarding what is being hidden. You are much better off acknowledging the time between jobs and then quickly outlining what has kept you busy while you were out.

So, how should you use your time while you are out? The answer is in a variety of ways, including some that you would share with a Hiring Manager, and (perhaps) a couple that you would not.

• Look for Work – OK, so this one is pretty obvious, but it absolutely needs to be your primary concern if you want to quickly land a job at the same/better level. In order to budget your most precious resource (which is time…not money), schedule out your day and week. Review what you scheduled in order to make sure that you are spending as much time as necessary on your job search. Any other activity (such appointments, time off, etc.) gets built into the schedule around your looking for work. Then you should continually evaluate whether you are getting everything done that you want to in order to determine if you are actually spending enough time on your search each day/week.

• Recharge Yourself – Taking some time for yourself and your family (if applicable) is perfectly OK. In fact, it may even be necessary in order to get you in the right frame of mind for your job search and next position. The key is that taking time off has a way of extending beyond a few days or even a couple of weeks. When you start getting beyond this period, you are starting to create your own resume hole.

• Short-Term Assignment – Check to see if there is something you could be doing in the short-term. Perhaps there is a project or agency type of assignment that can serve as a nice “bridge” between your two jobs. This can serve to keep you busy, bring some additional money in (if it does not disturb your unemployment, etc.), and you may even learn or enhance a skill that will improve your candidacy.

• Volunteer Your Time – Consider taking some of your non-job search time and allocating to an area charity (or charities). The charity obtains some much needed labor resources, while you are able to get out of the house, give back, and add a positive note to your resume or interview talking points. You may even find a charity that needs your particular skill set allowing you to keep your skills sharp.

• Dive Into Your Professional Network – If you are in an occupation where you have a professional association or network, then your job search is a good time to connect with the group. An even better situation is when you are already an active member and you are just spending more time with the group. Consider even taking a leadership role with the group, as long as you feel you will be able to maintain the responsibilities. Taking on this activity can really impress your Hiring Manager, especially if they are also a participant.

• Skill Up – None of us knows everything possible regarding our job or profession. It also seems so difficult to sharpen our skills when working full-time due to job, family, or other responsibilities. This is the time to take a course (online or in-person), or attend a seminar/workshop in order to enhance your knowledge. If you use the time wisely in this regard, you may even find yourself in a better situation regarding your candidacy than when you started your search. This is especially true if you were working a bit of a “dead-end” job previously, and not developing your skills.

It can be difficult to find the energy and motivation to jump right into your job search, but it is important that you do so. While gaps in your employment are not nearly as big of a negative as they used to be, it still will cause many to slap a red flag on your application.  When asked by a Hiring Manager, you want to confidently express to them how busy you have been keeping during your time off. There is no magic formula on this one, the solution is simple…roll up your sleeves and get to work finding a new job.

As always, best of luck in your job search!

The following has been prepared for the general information of RochesterJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein


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