Are “Job Gaps” A Good Thing?

Recently, a resume client of mine forwarded a newsletter article from job board discussing ways to overcome “job gaps” of 3-6 months.

Here’s a snippet from the article, and my subsequent retort as to why we should redefine the criteria for a job gap:

“Let’s say you left one job, and then had 3-6 months of down time before securing your next job. In this situation, your primary concern is that the employer will have a suspicion that you were fired from the previous position. The conventional logic is that good people get recruited to their next position; therefore they don’t have gaps in their work history.”

Before you’re scared into thinking you’re a “bad candidate”, let’s challenge the definition of a job gap by this author’s standards.

In my world as both a job seeker and career counselor, a time period of 3-6 months of unemployment should not be considered a job gap. Perhaps 10-15 years ago this was true when we could rely on our company to stick around for a while, give us a pension, promote us consistently, and send a turkey at Thanksgiving. But nowadays, so-called job gaps of 3-6 months are on everyone’s resume. And, quite frankly, they should be.

Job searches, even conducted by “good candidates” with the help of a seasoned career coach take 6 months or more. Especially when we’re waiting to find a job that actually fits us. Just because we’re not working for 3-6 months doesn’t mean we didn’t get any offers for work or that we didn’t get approached by enthusiastic recruiters.

In fact, an employer should look at 3-6 months of in-between time as a good thing–a sign that a job candidate has taken the time to reassess their goals and value offering to come up with the next step in their career. This is the type of employee that has staying power, one who will stick around….even if the company doesn’t reciprocate such loyalty.

That said, when your career moratorium exceeds a year, you probably have some explaining to do–explaining you can do on your resume and of course in the interview.

Let’s cut us all a break and admit that work is no longer a linear process where one job leads to the next in a logical and predictable sequence. We’re constantly having to reinvent ourselves, even if we’re staying with the same career. Again, this type of behavior should be applauded, not condemned. Introspective, patient, future-focused job candidates make the best employees but to foster these attributes in ourselves, we need some time between jobs, to do research, redo some self-assessments, network with new and old contacts, and complete formal and informal training.

Put another way, these job gaps that appear on our resumes are most often NOT OUR FAULT as employees, and yet we’re still put on the defensive in the interview to explain them. Perhaps hiring staff need our help in reminding them of this: Time off is not necessarily time squandered.

Stay on the BrightSide.

5 March 2009 | Career Transition, Interviewing, Job Market, Resumes | Comments