For anyone that has visited London and taken a trip on the famed "Tube" subway system is familiar with the phrase "Mind The Gap." It is a warning to train passengers to be aware of the gap between the train door and the station platform. What are you doing today to mind your own gap...in employment. Are you standing on the train platform or actually going somewhere on the train?
In my work over the past 10 months with displaced and candidates in transition, I have asked the same question. What have you been doing while you have been unemployed to make you more desirable and marketable to potential employers and against your own competition?
In the past an employment gap was something to be embarrassed about or to avoid at all costs, if possible. In today's world, it has become more commonplace and a fact on thousands of resumes around the country. However, the way you represent yourself in the face of your employment gap is what will differentiate you from the rest of the marketplace.
I have asked dozens of candidates how they have they spent their time during their layoff. I wasn't surprised to hear many of their answers. More popular answers were: networking, indulging in hobbies, spending more time with family or even getting more sleep.
But what was I truly wanting to hear? I was looking for a conversation about how they spent their time to make themselves unique in their industry. In this recession its vital to propel and escalate yourself to the top of the mountain of candidates, and quickly, because current trends are leaning towards employment growth starting to open up.
5 ACTION STEPS TO CHANGE YOUR "EMPLOYMENT INTERRUPTION" STATUS
How you can start today to significantly change the topic from “employment interruption” to a dynamic time where you enhanced your professional development and advanced your career. It works for everyone from entry level to senior executives and business leaders.
1. Volunteer. Find something relevant to both your business and your interests. For example, The United Way's Helping Hands Community Events. Volunteering helps you give back which puts you in a positive frame of mind and counter any negativity resulting from your job loss. It also provides you the opportunity to meet, greet and network with potential employers in a unique and creative way, which ultimately will differentiate yourself from competing candidates.
It also offers you a forum to highlight your own expertise. Volunteer to coach and mentor the next generation or fellow job seekers in your area of expertise only increases your management experience. Offer to mentor students, volunteer to provide business coaching to small and start-up organizations, offer to hold free round tables and discussions with fellow domain experts at your local Starbucks, get involved in fundraising and get involved in community outreach programs. You will be blown away at the good will and leads that open up by getting involved in your own backyard.
2. Professional Training and Development. Obtain additional certifications & degrees, attend workshops, source local community colleges and/or participate in online e-courses such as webinars and podcasts.
3. Create and Manage your Online Footprint. Make sure your social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace and Twitter are up to date and secure and your online reputation clean. Establish a blog in your area of expertise and participate in commenting on issues related to your field, which shows your continued visibility and presence in your area as a true expert and leader.
4. Competitive Intelligence Research. Applying critical thinking in these ways demonstrates your ability to approach research and competitive intelligence you have garnered during this time about your industry. Invest time in becoming an expert in the closely related fields, not only your industry. Will make you an even stronger candidate at this time than you were even before you were laid off.
5. Create Your Own Website to Present Your Resume. Go to free website template sites such as http://www.weebly.com/ which will help you easily create a small website where you can list your resume and link to other sites relevant to your. For example, create a free 1 or 2 page website that houses your resume, a link to your blog and a link to your Linkedin and Facebook account. This shows you are tech savvy and understand how to professionally market yourself. It also helps potential employers when they Google you (and they will) to find all your pertinent professional information in one place.
Once you do land that job, these on-going efforts will serve as instant supports to help keep you focused and protect against being steps behind if you are once again laid off in the future.