This is how I spent my unemployment (and I don’t regret it)

Here are six ways to show recruiters that you’ve made productive use of that period between jobs.

In the wake of one of the worst economic downturns in our nation’s history, big gaps between gainful employment tenures aren’t unusual or unexpected. But that doesn’t mean they’re simply being ignored by prospective employers.

Instead, hiring managers are interested in people who have shown the initiative to fill those gaps productively, said experts who spoke with Ladders. Here are six tips to demonstrate that time between jobs has been time well spent. (And, if it’s been tough to do more than look for work during that time, here are some things you should think about doing.)

  • Relevant job-related volunteer experience can be included chronologically on your resume. Treat volunteer work like you’re getting paid for it. In that way, “you tend to focus your efforts on customer service and achieving results, which is what any and every employer is looking for in the talent that they’re trying to attract,” said John Haynes, a senior HR professional and life and business coach. Unrelated volunteer experience can still be included on your resume, but it should go in a separate section.
  • Contract or temporary work will help you stay current with your field and show employers that you have not been idle since your last permanent, full-time job, said Cheryl Palmer, president of executive-coaching firm Call to Career.
  • If you’ve been unemployed more than a year, consider using a functional or creative resume instead of a traditional, reverse-chronological one, said Sandra Lamb, a career, lifestyle and etiquette expert.
  • Think about the ways in which networking has equipped you with new skills or sharpened some existing ones. Did you mentor a fellow job seeker? Help someone edit her resume? Act as de facto social-media manager for a Facebook group? Even if the experience is not appropriate for your resume, you can certainly speak to it in a cover letter and (hopefully) during an interview.
  • Include any and all training and education you have acquired. Emphasize your desire to continue to hone your skills while out of work.
  • With the job market brightening somewhat, dissatisfied employees will feel it’s safe to start jumping into the waters again, said Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a career expert, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart. Make sure you can compete by demonstrating a steady record of accomplishment as well as knowledge of top competitors and up-to-date industry trends.