Account for period between jobs

It’s a fair question to ask how to account for period between jobs. Depending on the circumstances, it may not matter very much. But it’s always a good idea to have an answer.

If you have gaps in your resume, but did work that someone paid you for, put that down in the time in your gaps. It shows that you were working, getting experience, and not relying entirely on society to carry you. All of those are good things.

I tend not to worry about short gaps. I had gaps in 2005 and 2012, for example. The only person who ever asked me about it was someone interviewing me for a security clearance.

I actually thought his line of questioning was unreasonable. “How did you support yourself for this gap of a month?” Given that you’re supposed to save up six months’ salary in case of emergencies when you’re a contractor, the answer was easy.

But if it’s a potential employer who’s asking, those gaps can be an opportunity to showcase yourself. In 2005 I started a small business, which required me to do some accounting, some customer service, and a ton of analysis in order to stay ahead of my competitors. A good employer will see value in those things. I also looked for work while that was going on.

In 2012, that business was still going and that helped sustain me. But besides that, I also took some short security classes and studied for the PMP certification. Although I didn’t end up sitting for the test, studying PMP helped me in subsequent roles. I’m constantly working with project managers, and it helps that I understand what they do and what they need. Early in my career, working with project managers drove me nuts, but now that I understand what they need, I enjoy it.

See what I did there? If I’d been working for that six weeks, I might have been too busy to study that project management stuff. But since I did, I’m more valuable now than I would have been without that gap in employment. That turns a perceived weakness into a strength.

Also, be honest when they ask. Nobody asks me about 2005 anymore, but it was a layoff, and my management at the time didn’t place much value on the work I was doing. But that work is valuable to the people I talk to today, and that’s what’s important. Just keep calm and state it matter of factly.

My situation was different in 2012. I was working a government contract. My firm lost the contract. The new firm offered me a position but they cut my pay. I decided I was ready for more responsibility, so I looked for another job instead.

Sometimes it’s possible to call less attention to those gaps, as well. In 2012, my job ended in April and my new job started in May. By just saying the month and the year, it looks like there might not have been a gap at all. If someone asks, I answer honestly. But no one does.

I think that may be key. It’s what I did during those jobs that’s important, not the gap. Make sure your resume shows what you accomplished at each step of your career. And when you’re interviewing, make sure the interviewer understands why each of your previous bosses misses you now that you’re gone.

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