Mind the Gap: How to Manage a Break in Your Employment History

Professional woman smiling

Recent reports estimate the number of available U.S. jobs at over 6 million. That’s an all-time record high.

Not surprising, more people are joining the workforce than ever before, many after having previously taken a long break.

If you’re one of these people, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you manage your transition back to work after an extended absence:

Be honest

Employers are going to want to know why you haven’t been working for a while. What’s the best way to deal with it when they ask? Tell them the truth. It’s as simple as that.

Keep in mind that you haven’t been doing nothing during your time away from work. Whatever your reasons for being out of the workforce for a while, concentrate on the positive aspects that have come from it — lessons learned, experience gained and personal growth accomplished.

That way, when you tell people why you’ve been away, you’ll be able to leave them with the impression that your experiences have improved and motivated you in ways that candidates who’ve been working steadily won’t be able to match.

Manage your expectations

Regardless of your previous employment history, understand that an extended absence may set off alarm bells for some employers.

Try not to take it personally. Remember, it’s only natural for hiring managers to balk at a hole in your resume; for them, allowing incoming employees to gradually get back into the swing of things may take extra time — and extra money on their part. The skepticism isn’t personally motivated.

Another way to manage your expectations is to look at “foot-in-the-door” opportunities. Warehousing and customer service are great points of entry for future growth. So are many administrative positions. If you’re feeling frustrated with the level of positions available to you, think of your first job back as the first step in a journey rather than your ultimate destination.

And don’t forget to share your motivation with the people who might hire you.

Ask and listen

Once you’re on the job, you don’t have to pretend to know everything. As uncomfortable as it may be to admit you don’t know how to do something, you can’t learn without asking.

There’s another great benefit to asking questions at work. Not only will it help you get up to speed, but it can also help others to see processes through your eyes, ask their own questions and discover new ways to be efficient. By simply asking the right questions, you have the potential to be seen as a valuable contributor right away.

It also helps to build trust among your new team when you listen to your coworkers and managers to get a sense of how they prefer to do things.

Give yourself some time

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you don’t have to master your new career in one day either. Remember that any frustration and stress you might be feeling is normal: this is a life shift — and you’re learning from all of it. Try to keep an open mind, soak it all in and stay positive.

If you find a skill or area where you feel unprepared or behind the times — for instance, a new software package or technological innovation — take a little extra time to learn it. That extra initiative won’t go unnoticed.

Learn more

Want more advice about entering the workforce after a long absence? Browse some past articles on the subject, such as “Re-Entering the Workforce? You’re Not Alone,” and “5 Tips to Explain an Employment Gap in Your Job Search.”

Seek expert help

It’s not always easy to know where to start. The good news is, plenty of people can help point you in the right direction. You can always reach out to an expert in your area: Aerotek recruiters are available to provide advice you can use.

And if you’re looking for a job, visit our job board to find your next great opportunity. Create a free career account today to customize your search.