3 Great Tips to Explain an Employment Gap

23 02 2016

Most honest job-seekers with stellar resumes, sufficient experience and impeccable references also have gaps in their employment histories. Some of those gaps were filled with personally-enriching experiences such as hiking or swimming with dolphins. The issue is what such employment gaps signal to the prospective employer. After all, when you’re between jobs, the proper practice is to engage in worthwhile activities: volunteering, internships, freelancing, or taking classes. What happens when you’ve done none of those things? What if you simply took a break to mentally prepare for diving into a new, demanding job once the opportunity arose?

Karl Magnussen Interview Gap post

Not everything you’ve done during your gap may have been productive, but even so, there are some things that can be used to your advantage when discussing potential employment opportunities with hiring managers. So here’s how you can explain a longer gap in your resume and land the job you’ve been searching for:

Be honest – highlight achievements during the gap

There’s no problem with owning up to being burn out or having had needed to take some time out. That’s something that everyone deals with sooner or later in life, even hiring managers. So be honest about taking some time to recompose yourself, mention a journal or a blog you’ve kept, any new publications or activities you may have engaged in. If you took time off to travel, discuss the experience: have you had the opportunity to learn a lesson that can, in any way, relate to your career? Great! Mention it, debate it, build around it.

Were you preparing for a career change? Then discuss how you collected information about this particular change during your employment gap. Be open with the hiring manager and detail how you’ve been reading, connecting with people in the industry you’re targeting and preparing for this career change. Just like people tailor their applications to make then appeal to a potential employer (here are some absolutely creative job applications, for instance), you too can explain your gap in a way that hiring managers find understandable and acceptable.

Know how to discuss why you left your previous job

Chances are that hiring managers will ask you about the reasons why you left your previous job long before they will ask about any employment gaps so be prepared to address this issue. An ideal answer follows the well-known KISS rule (keep it short and sweet). Now, there are acceptable reasons for discontinuing employment:

  • Advancement issues: you did not find the advancement opportunities that you wished for
  • Location: unreasonably long commutes/ being forced to move
  • Job Security: working for a company that was not stable
  • Prestige: wishing to work for a more prestigious company
  • Financial reward: being underpaid for your contribution and skills

Always focus on yourself and not your previous employer. Any change should be a result of your desire for growth and career improvement.

Confidently explain how you’re qualified for the job

It’s understandable that an honest conversation about an employment gap would make you uneasy, however, confidence is paramount. Remember that resume gaps are common among job seekers and hiring managers know it. Have an answer prepared and finish with a question that moves the interview back to your capabilities and the job’s requirements:

“I’ve taken advantage of this period to better educate myself and connect with successful industry professionals who’ve gone through such a massive career shift. Getting up to speed with how the job hunting process has changed also took more than I had anticipated, but all these experiences helped me grow. Here I am, determined, persistent and re-fueled. “

****For this great post, Campus to Career thanks Karl Magnussen!!****





[INFOGRAPHIC]: How to React to Weird Interview Questions

17 02 2016

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There is a growing trend among employers these days: ask really weird interview questions. So what is the purpose? Is it just to entertain them or is there something else?

Well…it may be for entertainment purposes, but there might a deeper reason behind questions such as: If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be?

Thanks to these questions, they can see, how a prospective new employee can react to something unexpected. It shows how interviewees can think outside of the box. Some of the questions are specially designed to determine job seeker’s analytical thinking.

So how do you react if you get this kind of question? Don’t worry. Some of the genius answers we all saw on the internet are just made up stories. Your answer doesn’t have to be especially brilliant, but it should be somehow creative.

Take your time to think about it, but don’t stare at the wall with a blank look. Try to highlight some of your strengths in your answer. Think of something that wouldn’t be a standard answer to the question. Make yourself easy to remember (in a good way)!

Google. Tesla. Apple. These are companies that we’ve heard ask really weird questions. Questions like these…

 

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****For this fun post, Campus to Career thanks our friends over at KickResume!!****





And the Hits Keep On Comin’…

10 02 2016

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February 10, 2016. This date might not have much significance to you, but it has great meaning to me. You see, today is my official blogging anniversary. Six years ago, I decided to take a hobby and shape into what you know as Campus to Career. I was sitting in the airport, bound for Singapore to participate in Enactus World Cup (then known as SIFE), an event that brought together real-life world-changers from over 40 countries. I figured it was time to get serious about this or give up altogether. I’m glad I got serious.

I’ve been fortunate to share my point of view on career advice, collaborate with some of the best in the business, and help young people succeed in their careers all over the world. Campus to Career has made several “top career advice” lists and we’ve been humbled by each and every one.

But, here’s the thing: NONE of this would have happened without YOUR support. Seriously. YOU make this little career advice blog such an incredible source of information. There are some particular individuals I’d like to call out with a personal thank you. They are:

Family – Mom, dad, siblings, cousins, my amazing wife…THANK YOU. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without your support, influence and swift kick in the butt from time to time!

Friends – I’m happy to say that there are simply too many to name here, but again, THANK YOU. Your support has meant the world to me.

Teachers – From my kindergarten teacher to my speech & debate coach to a few very special college professors…thanks for helping me find my way.

Mentors – Can I just say all of the above? Whether they’ve been official mentors or unofficial, they’ve been instrumental in my success, guiding me, listening, and offering perspective – in my career and in life.

Peers – Thank you for leading by example. There are millions of career advice experts, bloggers and “gurus” out there. I’ve been very fortunate to connect with many of you over the years and not only is Campus to Career stronger and better because of it, I’m a better person thanks to your openness and support to help make this world a better place. Many of the “hits” mentioned in the title of this post are because we collaborated to provide unique content to Campus to Career readers! (Thank you.)

Hits like these:

Here’s to 6 awesome years of partnership. I’m looking forward to many more!

COMING SOON: A new Campus to Career website design! We’re looking for volunteers to help us design a new logo. Interested? Email your pitch and sample to kirk.baumann@att.net. If selected, we’ll credit you for the work when the new site launches!





Career Advice from a Groundhog

2 02 2016

Each year, Americans celebrate Groundhog Day on February 2.  That’s right.  For the past 129 years, we’ve had a day celebrating a rodent.  Punxsutawney Phil is a legend.  He has his own website and Twitter feed.  They even made a movie about it starring Bill Murray alongside the furry fella.  Every February 2, people from all over the country wait to see if he sees his shadow.  You see, Phil is something of a amateur weatherman…some may even call him a prophet.  If he sees his shadow, legend has it that there will be six more weeks of winter.  If he doesn’t see his shadow, we’ll have an early spring.  As fun as it sounds, we all know that the first day of spring is March 20 or 21 depending on the year and it’s almost EXACTLY six weeks from February 2.  Shh…don’t tell Phil.

The reason I started this article with the Groundhog Day history is that February 2 is also National Job Shadowing Day.  Championed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and many other organizations, National Job Shadowing Day provides job seekers and youth a unique look into different industries and careers within those industries.  It’s a great way to learn from others in the role, gain perspective from their experience, and get a true feel for that particular job, company and industry without the pressures of an actual interview.

Please note: While it’s not an actual interview, I would highly recommend you being just as professional as if it were!  You never know where this experience could take you.

In the job search, shadowing can be very beneficial.  Even if you’re gainfully employed, it’s a great way to learn more about what makes the company work.  I’d like to cover both sides: Job seekers and employers.  Below are two key points for each.  It’s not an all-inclusive list, so if you have other suggestions, please include them in the comment section.

Job Seekers

Spend “A Day In the Life”. Job shadowing is a perfect way to spend a day in the life of someone, learning from their experiences and truly stepping into their shoes.  Ask someone in a position you’re interested in to spend a day or half-day with them.  If they consent to the full day, ask for the experience to be as authentic as possible.  If that means your day begins at 4:00AM in a distribution center, then go with it.  It’s really the best way to get a feel for the opportunity while not actually working for that company or officially interviewing.

Make the connection. Get the person’s contact information and ask if you can stay in touch with them throughout your job search and beyond.  Don’t just view job shadowing as a one-way street.  Believe it or not, the person you’re shadowing is probably learning just as much as you are!  Offer your perspective and insight on processes and business practices.  Ask a lot of thought-out questions.  Do your research, though.  Don’t ask questions like “what does your company do”.  Instead, ask questions like “how do you market a certain product” or “what do you like most/least about your job”.  People love to talk about themselves!  Asking the right questions will help you gain insightful perspective into the industry, company and position.

Employers

Prepare & Participate. I would highly encourage businesses large and small to participate in the job shadow opportunities available.  It’s a great way to showcase your company, your knowledge, and your culture.  But don’t just jump in without a little preparation.  I’m not saying that you should create a canned speech about Company XYZ, but it’s good to have some consistency across the board.  Have a plan.   During the job shadowing, walk the person through the industry, your company, and your job specifically.  Give them the real “play by play”, but don’t bog everyone down with the mundane details.  We don’t need a minute-by-minute breakdown of what you do, but rather need a high-level overview.  Think of the opportunity as a one day internship.

Educate, Inform, and Involve. This goes hand in hand with the previous point of prepare and participate.  Job shadowing should be about three things: Education, Information, and Involvement.  Keep the experience interactive, providing a good education about the opportunity, information about your company and the culture, and involve the person job shadowing in the process.  This isn’t a lecture – it’s a conversation.  Have questions of your own.  Know what you want to achieve.  Is it about Branding?  Networking or mentorship?  Recruiting?  Know what you want to get from the process and be prepared to give at least just as much.

Now, I know you’re thinking, “Kirk, Groundhog Day falls on a Saturday this year.”  National Job Shadow Day shouldn’t be the only day you participate.  It’s a year round activity!  Get on the phone, reach out via email, Skype, etc. and ask if you can spend some time with a local employer for a job shadowing opportunity.  If you can’t get in on February 2, consider the entire month of February as Job Shadowing Month.  The key is actually reaching out and asking.  Many companies don’t have a formal job shadowing program, but  if you ask, they may be willing to accommodate you in some capacity.

My last thought before leaving you to the rest of your week:  Don’t let conformity stop you.  Just because this hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done.  Just ask.  The worst answer you’ll get is “no”.  If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.  Also, don’t let this begin and end in February.  Job shadowing is relevant every day of the year!

Don’t be like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day. When the alarm goes off, get up, get ready and get after it!

What are your thoughts?  Have you tried job shadowing before?  Employers: do you have something set up to address the opportunity for job seekers and current employees?  Please let me know!  Leave a comment below.

As always, thanks for reading.  And as I would imagine Punxsutawney Phil would say, “BE the shadow!”

This post was originally written in 2011, but it’s still relevant. I’ve taken the liberty to dust it off, update it, and share with you again this year.  Happy Groundhog Day!