Many times I’ve been asked, “I don’t know which is better or worse, to take a job, any job in order to avoid gaps in my employment or should I hold off and wait for the job I want? What’s better, to look like a job hopper to avoid gaps in my employment, or wait until I find the job I want, regardless of the gap in my employment history?” Good question, the answer depends a lot on your own personal situation.
If you are already currently working, unless you absolutely hate your job and can’t take another day of it, do not leave one job until you have another to which to go. I’ve written about this in more detail previously, but please don’t use a lame excuse of, “Well, I don’t think it is professional or honest to look for a job while working for my current employer.” Pleeeeze, give me a break; figure out how and when you can arrange to interview before or after work, during lunch or take a personal day. But don’t leave one job before securing the next one because what might start out as potentially a short span of time can turn into something much longer and unanticipated. Gaps in employment should be avoided as much as possible.
Sadly, many companies’ representatives with whom selection and hiring is their responsibility, tend to make generalizations and judgments about your suitability based on what they see on your resume. Before they actually evaluate the content they scan down the page, connecting the dots, so to speak, checking for holes in your employment history. If there is no information present to justify the changes it could detract from your otherwise documented successes, work history and experience. More about this another time, but back to the subject…
I’m aligned with the side of the argument that contends that gaps in employment are more detrimental than job changes, especially if you have a prior track record of stability. The chaotic and lethargic job market of the last few years is well understood and can be justified. Although it can also be said with regard to periods of unemployment, if you’ve had until recently a stable record of employment, most will understand there are many people who’ve found it necessary to start over, taking their careers in a new direction.
While a tough economy is an excuse it is not is a valid reason by itself. In both the case of repeated job changes or breaks in your employment chronology, you must be prepared to explain your circumstances in order to sufficiently satisfy any potential employer. I suggest that if you have nothing to hide and you are making the best effort possible, you are able to back up your claims and explain your circumstances in a truthful manner -- don’t be so stressed. Besides, anyone who seems unaware of the difficulty of the current job market is either thick as a brick, or has been living under a rock. Other ways to bridge any concerns would be to gather valid reference letters or written recommendations beforehand and at the ready, anytime you find it necessary.
Additionally, review your resume from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know you, or have someone else look it over objectively. Then, go back and connect the dots; in other words, if you were downsized or your position made redundant but your resume does not say so, add it. If your company merged or was acquired, note it so it does not appear you’ve had two separate employers; add the information, perhaps in a smaller italicized font. My primary suggestion for this blog entry is that, until they meet with you and you have a chance to sit down with them for an interview, they’ll already have a document that provides answers to some of their questions about your particular circumstance.
The tired old rules and dogma, which were in vogue until a few years ago with regard as to how to find a good job, now ring hollow. Innovate and proactively plan ahead in anticipation of questions that you already know will be on the minds of any potential employer.
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