If you have been unemployed for more than 6 months, you have a gap to fill on your resume. Do it with activity that supports you and your job search. Avoid staying in your home, hands on the keyboard all day. That’s not the way that most people find a job, and it can be very discouraging and lonely. Stay involved in work, and also stay up-to-date in your field. Involvement is great for networking. It’s also great for your market value – demonstrating the value you bring to an employer.
Staying up-to-date and showing potential employers that you are up-to-date is very important, particularly if you haven’t been fully employed for a while.
And, last, but NOT least, it’s great for your morale. Yes – you CAN do things valued by employers! You might even get paid!
Sounds great! How do you accomplish this?
You Have Options
1. Sign up with a temporary agency for work in your target field (or as close as you can get) and/or for one of your target employers.
This is a foot-in-the-door move plus a paycheck while filling in a gap. Excellent combination!
Many employers hire temporary help while they wait to see if business improves to the point that adding permanent staff is appropriate. The temporary work may become permanent (often called temp-to-perm). If you don’t have any experience in your target field, this may be difficult or you may need to start on the “bottom rung” or in a job related to your target field. If you can’t find experience in a related field, try finding any temporary position at one of your target employers.
The beauty of this is that you can build a reputation with the temporary agency, have an opportunity to try-before-you-buy with new employers (and vice versa), and it is, of course, great networking. You will meet new people, experience new work environments, learn more about what you like (and don’t like), and demonstrate your skills and knowledge. Maybe, you’ll even create an accomplishment or two (or more) for your resume and LinkedIn Profile. Certainly you will fill in an employment gap.
If possible, sign up with more than one agency, and visit their offices to see how they work. Be sure you are comfortable with them before you sign anything.
2. Go after contract assignments in your target field (or as close as you can get) and/or for one of your target employers if you can’t get temporary work.
Hiring contract workers is a popular way for many companies to get important work done without adding permanent staff, similar to the temporary agency approach. Sometimes this can be through an agency as well. It depends on your field and your target market.
As with temporary agency work, this is a combination foot-in-the-door with a paycheck. It may also demonstrate that you set up your own business. Excellent!
This usually requires assistance from a network or excellent social media skills. Build an online portfolio of your work (LinkedIn is excellent for this!), and add the URL to your business cards (make business cards).
You will need to do some important administrivia – keeping very good records of your “business expenses” separate from “personal expenses,” and in the USA, it’s probably a good idea to register a “DBA” (Doing Business As) with your local town government. You will also probably need to market your services – join the local Chamber of Commerce, or at least go to a meeting or two, and also connect with industry/professional organizations relevant to your target market.
Read every contract very carefully before you sign it! Preferably, have an attorney or someone experienced with contracts review it first.
If you are already well-known in your field, contracting may be very easy, and it may be a permanent change for you from employee to entrepreneur.
3. Volunteer at a related non-profit for temporary work and volunteer assignments.
Non-profit organizations almost always need help. So do political campaigns and organizations that support important local issues (from food banks to cancer research). Sometimes even local governments can accept free assistance. Or, perhaps the school your child attends needs some parental assistance. Look around to see what is available where you live. Sometimes the work is paid. Often it is unpaid.
Choose carefully and purposefully. If your goal is a position in marketing in “the real world,” target that kind of position for your volunteering – help with the marketing. Stick with organizations or causes that are meaningful to you in a positive way – don’t volunteer to help (or hurt) a political candidate you don’t believe in.
Activity Offers Benefits
The goal with all of this activity is to fill a gap on your resume. And, it also offers you an opportunity to get out into the marketplace – demonstrating your value (to yourself and to others), building your self-confidence, adding to your skills, and helping you be as up-to-date and current as you can be. All of those make you more appealing to potential employers.
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