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Friday, September 21, 2007
Time Gaps

Do you know anyone who has worked for the same company for thirty years? I don’t either, personally, but I occasionally still see them come my way when they are retiring or the company “downsized” to save on costs. It is fairly unusual for someone to have a continuous chronology of job experience these days. The average job lasts something like three years before there is a layoff or the employee moves on to greener pastures.

Another part of the “new employment order” is time gaps in employment. Most of the time, when someone is downsized, a date gap occurs, especially if the downsizing was a surprise. How many people have resumes that show a time gap after 2001 when the recession hit in the wake of 9/11? A very large proportion! It’s not unusual to see high level execs who started their own businesses at that time due to a layoff and who are now selling that business or retiring. Date gaps are not necessarily harbingers of doom and gloom!

There is also the “Sandwich Generation” – those of us who are in our forties who are “sandwiched” between raising children and caring for aging parents. Many people in this situation have no other choice than to take a leave of absence or some time away simply to be able to care for mom and dad. A date gap on the resume for family leave is quite common.

Many professionals take a year or eighteen months off to return to school for an advanced degree and that creates a gap in employment. Is it detrimental? Of course not!

So how do you handle date gaps? First of all, while you are doing whatever it is you are doing during the gap, make sure you keep up to speed on your industry. This is most important for technology professionals who get left behind by their peers if they simply take too long in the bathroom. It applies to other professions, too. If you want to change fields, you can take advantage of family leave to start working in a new direction – studying, volunteering, etc. The key is to not just “sit still”.

Second, don’t be afraid of them. Everyone has date gaps but that doesn’t mean you weren’t doing anything. You might be doing something VERY important during that period such as an internship or maybe traveling to a foreign country for immersion language training. You might just be staying home with dad to make sure he’s well-cared for, too. Whatever it is, you are doing something important so don’t be ashamed.

About the only date gap that I think is difficult to overcome in a job search is a prison term. That, too, seems to be failing further down on the list of “detriments to the career” if you watch the famous people making the news these days. I wonder how Martha handles her “date gap” on her resume?


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