Minding Your Career Gap
We have always been told that having a career gap or a period of unemployment was deadly for our career.
Well, many of you who read this blog have decided to take time off to take care of a spouse or parent which means creating a career gap and leaving the workforce for over a year. This made re-entry very difficult.
That is slowly coming to an end.
What Has Changed for Those with a Career Gap?
When I graduated from engineering school in 1978, if you could not get a job you were a screw-up. Being unemployed was shameful and a black mark on your character.
We experienced two horrible recessions in the first decade of the 21st century. This has left a lasting mark on our careers and how we look at work. Many of us thought we would work for a single employer in our careers before we went off to a comfortable retirement. Those days are gone or as I say they moved my cheese.
I think it is safe to say almost all of us, have a close family member or friend experience a bout of unemployment. Unlike when we started our careers – having a career gap of a year or more is no longer unusual.
Long term unemployment, being unemployed over 26 weeks, is common in the over 45-year-old community and it gets worse as we get older. Having a career gap has become common.
Even as the economy has boomed over the last 10 years, it has been very uneven. I wrote in my post Full Employment is Here Except For Baby Boomers that many in our cohort have dropped out of the employment scene. One of the main reasons has been to take care of aging parents who cannot afford the rising cost of healthcare.
Many have taken the route of caring for their parent rather than continuing with their career. Over the last 8 years, I have heard too many stories of people who have left the workforce and couldn’t get back in. Their skills grew stale, their networks aged out, their industries died, or they did not know how to look for a job in the 21st century.
I believe times are changing but … slowly.
I reviewed Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life by Chris Farrell back in 2014. I also interviewed Chris on the Repurpose Your Career podcast in 2016.
Chris Farrell wrote back in 2014:
Employer stereotypes that view older workers as lacking creativity won’t hold up to scrutiny. The prejudice that older workers aren’t productive will be proven false. The competition for talented employees will push managers to abandon long-held hiring hurdles against aging workers. Seniors will recharge the nation’s entrepreneurial energy.
Chris was quite optimistic that times would change and employers would have to look to older workers to fill positions. I think Chris was overly optimistic, however, the time has come for employers to look to those of us in the 2nd half of life to fill the employment void.
Filling in the Career Gap
Employers are presently more acceptable to a career gap. That is as long as you can explain you were doing something productive, gaining new skills and staying competitive. You will need to reframe your year(s) of being out of the workforce in job-related terminology.
I was just talking with an individual who took time off to care for a parent. They filled multiple employment roles:
- Project Manager – They had to coordinate with the many tasks dealing with Medicare, doctors, hospitals, nursing facilities, medication and the many of arcane complexities of getting old.
- Transportation Coordinator – Many who are caring for their parents also have children still at home. Figuring out how everyone gets to where they need to be while at the same time caring for an elderly parent can be mind-boggling.
- Financial Planner – Anyone who has had to probate a will or act as the executor of a will can tell you this can be incredibly complicated. I was quite blessed that when my mother passed away in 2003, she had everything in a living will. The estate was quite simple to divide up and pass to my brother and me.
I was responsible for my mother for her last 5 years of life. What I learned in those years was pretty incredible.
Take the time to reframe your experience in employment terminology. You should be able to explain what you did during your career gap.
Programs to Help
Employers are waking up to the fact that they need to look to untapped resources. This includes those of you who have experienced a career gap and want back in.
Path Forwards about us page states:
Path Forward is a nonprofit organization on a mission to empower people to restart their careers after time spent focused on caregiving. We fulfill this mission by working with companies to create and run mid-career internships — also known as “returnships” — that give women and men a jump start back to a professional career while giving companies access to a diverse, untapped talent force.
In episode #80 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast titled Carol Fishman Cohen CEO and Co-Founder of iRelaunch, I was honored to interview Carol Fishman Cohen, Chair and co-founder of iRelaunch.
iRelaunch’s ‘About’ page on her website states that their vision is the following:
iRelaunch’s vision is that every company running an entry-level college internship program will run a mid-career return to work program side-by-side. Not only do return to work programs allow companies to tap into the high-caliber relauncher talent pool, but they also demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and can be broadened to include other non-traditional career transitioners: veterans, military spouses, retirees, and ex-pats. Running a return to work program sends a powerful signal to all of a company’s workforce constituencies: its own alumni on career break, its current employee base with friends and relatives on career break and its younger employees who (studies show) are anticipating career breaks in numbers greater than ever seen before.
Check out the many resources that they provide here.
Career Pivot Community
In late 2017, I launched the Career Pivot Community initiative. The concept is you will not reinvent or reinvigorate your career alone but it takes a village.
As I write this post in the middle of June of 2019, the community is still in the beta phase. I am planning for a full launch near the end of 2019. The current members are helping me to frame and position the resources that the initiative will provide.
Take a moment to check out the Career Pivot Community initiative.
Time to Take Action
You are not alone in this journey. There are millions in the 2nd half of life who have a career gap on their resume or LinkedIn profile. Many of you are ready to return to the workforce.
You will need to make a plan. Reframe your time out of the workforce and seek help. It will not be easy. However, employers have started to change their hiring practices. They are now looking to those of you who have a career gap to fill the void.
What action are you going to take?Marc Miller