There are two kinds of job seekers: those looking for jobs and those who will be looking for jobs – at one time or another. It’s inevitable. What’s a secure job anymore? Remember when the post office was as secure and safe as you could get?
Many people, who find themselves having more free time on their hands, may convince themselves they will take some time off for a few weeks and then they will kick it back into gear and look for a new job; this is rarely a good idea. A few weeks can turn into a few months, 7 and then 8… You may tell yourself you want to clear your head a bit, take a break and maybe do a little traveling, or get some reading done before you jump back into that rat race. But I’m here to tell you this is a mistake. I know people such as these, they have good track records of performance and they thought the same thing and, now one year later, they are searching for a job – and panicking. The slower than normal job market is one big reason why you shouldn’t sit back and put your feet up.
Companies are taking longer to make decisions; they are scrutinizing applicants more thoroughly, which brings me to my main point. Gaps in your employment can hurt your chances when compared with other applicants. The bigger the gap the more you’ve got to explain. If you have no choice in the matter, so be it, but if you chose to sit back that’s a little harder to rationalize. Sure, if you are that good, if you blow the others away during the interview process, a slight gap isn’t going to hurt you. But if there are other people of similar experience and skill seeking the same job, the span of time between jobs is one of the items at which they will be looking. So why purposely handicap yourself? Regret is a dirty word in my vocabulary.
Many people, including myself, on occasion think, “ah screw’em, I don’t care what they think”. But unless you’re self-employed that attitude won’t get you very far. Using your new free time for introspection, to travel or spend time reading and lamenting the state of the world – whatever excuse you use won’t pay the bills; meanwhile, time marches on and faster than you think. And if you’re not nervous because you have some savings socked away or received a fat severance package, after you burn through that, then what?
The point is gaps in your employment, especially those that are avoidable or you cannot easily explain away, do not reflect well on a person. Maybe you’re not worried, but I have watched people who said they have it handled, they were cool and calm and knew what they were doing and, a year later, suddenly they are willing to take any job they can find. This is no way to manage a career, much less keep pace with the ebb and flow of economic cycles.
Anyone who has worked to stay in good physical condition and participate competitively, knows after a lengthy pause they lose something, they are not as sharp or as agile and it takes a while to get back to where they were. It is no different if you have a break and make excuses to delay doing what needs to be done; that is, to get out there and find another job.
Whether by choice or by circumstance you find yourself with free time as a result of unemployment, sure, put your feet up a bit, take a week or two to get your thoughts together, catch your breath and, then, get back into the race.
Next time we’ll talk about small but potentially costly resume mistakes related to your job changes.
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