As of April 2023, 6.5 million people in the U.S. who want to work full-time have been without a job for more than six months, while another 3.9 million are only working part-time when they want to work full-time. These numbers increased in 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and have not yet fully recovered.
For those who have been out of the full-time labor force for a lengthy period, it can be difficult to find full-time work and garner a job offer because employers see gaps in a person’s work history as red flags. They thus either pass them over for job opportunities or scrutinize them more closely than they would other applicants.
Here are some steps to take when you want to get back into the workforce after a lengthy period of unemployment or have been out of the workforce for a longer-than-usual period.
1. Decide How to Frame Your Story.
It’s almost guaranteed that any prospective employer will want an explanation for the gap in your job history, so make it a good one that won’t be an impediment to getting a job now. You’ll want to be honest, but frame the explanation in the best possible light.
One common explanation many people had during COVID-19 was they didn’t know when their children’s schools would reopen, and they needed to take care of them at home. Other explanations could include getting further training, moving to a new area for a partner’s promotion, or taking care of a sick parent or other family member.
So long as the explanation makes sense and doesn’t look like an excuse, it will be acceptable to a new employer. If the reason was an illness or a mental health condition, this may be looked at differently, but it can still be shared if you can show you’re now in top shape, have a good handle on your condition, or that it’s been resolved.
2. Update Your Resume.
While you may not have been gainfully employed for a while, this doesn’t mean you can’t add to your resume in a way that shows you made good use of the gap in employment. Be sure to add any trainings you attended, volunteer positions you had, or freelance clients you worked during the gap period.
Another section of your resume that’s important to update is the references. Whom have you met since the last time you were looking for a job that you could ask to advocate strongly for you when companies call? Shoot for people well-respected in their fields who have personal knowledge of your accomplishments.
3. Use a Cover Letter to Explain the Gap.
If your resume additions don’t account for a gap in employment, you can use your cover letter to explain the gap. The cover letter is the best place for such an explanation as it allows you to give information about your background and experience that doesn’t fit neatly into the parameters of a resume.
4. Expand Your Network.
If no job prospects seem to be forthcoming, the best thing you can do is expand your network and get to know more people in your field. There are many ways to do this including the following:
- Join the local chamber of commerce or other organization for professionals and attend as many events as possible.
- Take colleagues in your desired field to lunch and ask them who they can introduce you to so you can make new business connections.
- Attend a conference or training in your field and introduce yourself to speakers and leaders there.
5. Look for Connections Between Your Network and Job Listings.
Many job seekers don’t want to draw on their connections to get recommendations or referrals to jobs, but this can be one of the most effective ways to get your foot in the door of a particular position, especially during times when companies aren’t hiring as many workers or are being more careful about who they hire.
When looking at job listings, try to figure out a connection you may have to each company and use it for all it’s worth. Most people are happy to help you, especially when you tell them you’ve had an employment gap and are at a disadvantage in trying to get a job now.
6. Custom Staffing Can Help.
Custom staffing looks for specific skills that match up to specific positions, rather than more generic abilities. Some custom staffing positions are consultants for limited contracts, but they can be lucrative steppingstones for getting your career back on track.
In some cases, government programs can subsidize the costs of training that may be needed to address skills gaps, and companies may be incentivized for hiring from populations that have been unemployed.
GDH provides staffing services and specializes in hard-to-fill positions and workers with specialized skills. Need an ally on your career path? We’re it.