5 things to do during an employment gap

The one common thing that almost everyone experiences during an employment gap is more free time. If this is not something that you’re used to.

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We’ve all been there. Whether it was planned or not, an employment gap or transition period in between jobs can come with a rollercoaster of emotions. If your transition period is planned and you have a set start date for your next role, you might be feeling happy, free, and ready to relax. On the flip side, if you’re searching for a new job, it’s likely that you have at least some sort of anxiety and fear about the unknown (relax, it’s totally normal). Most people fall somewhere in between and feel a range of emotions regardless of the situation. The one common thing that almost everyone experiences during an employment gap or transition period is more free time. If this is not something that you’re used to, it can be extremely overwhelming and leave you feeling a little lost. If this sounds familiar, this article is for you! Here are five things to do during an employment gap or transition period.


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Update your resume

This is probably the last thing you want to do, but it’s easily one of the most important things that needs to get done. If you already have a job lined up, you might want to skip over this, but don’t. Regardless of your situation, take advantage of free time to update your resume.

If you have a new job lined up, reorganize your document to include your new job. You likely won’t have all the details, but you can always fill those in later. By making space for your new role and creating an outline of what needs to be added to your resume, you’ll lessen your workload later and give yourself a good foundation to build upon. It’s always better to work on your resume when you have time instead of when you’re scrambling.

If you’re searching for a new job, be sure to update your resume and create a strong focus for your document. Someone should immediately be able to figure out what kind of job you’re interested in applying to upon reading (or glancing at) your resume.

Learn something new or learn more about something that will further your career

Before you get stressed about paying for classes, take into account that there are a lot of educational resources that don’t cost an arm and a leg. When I talk about learning something new, this includes online courses, YouTube tutorials, or budget friendly platforms such as LinkedIn Learning or skillshare. Additionally, there are a lot of free courses and certifications you can get online which immensely help build your resume. For example, you can take some online tutorials and training sessions on QuickBooks or Adobe Photoshop via YouTube and list that as specialized training. As long as the training gives you an advantage and further educates you on a subject, you can list it on your resume. Here are 10 free online certifications to help boost your resume!

Including relevant certifications and specialized training can make a huge difference when you’re applying for jobs. Even if you don’t have specific certifications but you’ve had internal training, (i.e. courses you’ve taken at work, management training, HR training, etc.) include that in your resume. When you’re searching for a new job, be mindful of opportunities to further educate yourself in certain areas that could benefit your career. Could you get certified in a specific software or take a current certification to the next level? This will help an employer see how you align with the position you’re applying for. When hiring managers are comparing candidates, sometimes small details such as certifications and/or specialized training can make all the difference. If you’ve taken the time to further educate yourself in your field, this shows motivation and ambition which are important traits to highlight on your resume.

Reach out to your contacts

The ultimate way to get your resume into the right hands is to use your industry connections. If you have a contact who can direct your resume to the right person, use it. “Job search is about going beyond the resume to get noticed. Real relationships with colleagues and friends matter in getting a foot in the door,” says career coach Alyson Garrido.

Reach out to industry contacts to let them know you’re currently in a transition period and are looking for new opportunities. People are often willing to help, but they cannot do so if they aren’t aware that you’re interested and open to new opportunities.

Consider sending an email like this:

“Hope this note finds you well! We met [where/when you met] and I wanted to circle back with you and see how [Insert a question about how an event went or touch on something you spoke about when you met].

I’ve followed your journey and am extremely impressed with your work on [project]. This inspired me to shift my career towards [job] and I was wondering if you have any advice to share? [Company] is on my short list of dream companies, so I wanted to see if there might be any current or future openings I could look into. I’ve recently updated my resume and have attached it to this email for your convenience. Please let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to pass it along if you see fit.

Thanks in advance for your help! Please keep me posted on how things are going and if there’s anything I can do to return the favor.

Best,

[Your Name]”

Leveraging your network is one of the best ways to find and secure new job opportunities. Doing so enables you to get your resume in front of the right person and often helps you bypass large applicant pools, especially during the graduation rush.

Focus on the quality of applications, not the quantity

It can be tempting to just hit “apply” on every position that might seem like a potential fit, but instead of focusing on how many job applications you submit, try to create a couple of really strong applications with resumes that you have customized for each position based on the job description.

Often people employ the “spray and pray” tactic when applying for jobs. This term has become common among recruiters when describing a candidate that applies to tens or hundreds of positions in the hopes that someone will bite. On average, each corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes. This means that your resume has to be outstanding in order to stand out from the crowd. When using the spray and pray tactic, resumes usually don’t hold the specified requirements or keywords, causing them to get turned down immediately. When you don’t customize your resume to each job, it’s clear that you’re using the spray and pray tactic. This isn’t an effective job search strategy, and it also doesn’t bode well for your reputation among hiring managers or recruiters.

Remember that it takes time, and relish the time you have now

Ultimately, finding a job that is a good fit for you takes time. There are so many factors that go into finding a job such as company culture, location, salary, scope of work, timing, etc. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or get dejected because your job search isn’t going as well as you hoped, but it’s important to realize that it’s not personal. Finding a job is hard for everyone! Finding a job that meets your criteria and is a good fit for you and your potential employer is difficult whether you’re searching for your first job out of college or looking to make a lateral move as an executive.

If you’re someone who thrives with a busy schedule, (I’m part of that club) having extra free time can cause a lot of anxiety. While this is totally normal, it is important to put things in perspective and logic your way through it. Yes, extra free time can feel expansive and make you feel a little lost, but as long as you’re putting your best foot forward and doing everything in your power to find the right job, there’s not much else you can do. At some point you just have to trust that your hard work will pay off and enjoy the time that you have. You won’t always be able to hit a mid-day exercise class or read that book you’ve been meaning to finish. It can be difficult, but enjoy the time you have while you have it, because if you’re being proactive, you’ll find a job before you know it!

This article first appeared on Write Style.

Michele Lando is a certified professional resume writer, personal branding expert, and founder of Write Styles. She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves both on paper and in person and works to polish individuals’ application package and personal style. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles provides resources to enhance your resume, professional appearance, and boost your confidence.

Michele Lando|is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and founder of writestylesonline.com