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Many candidates are stressed to get back to the job market after an employment gap, as they know finding their target job can be challenging. While this is true, being strategic about your job search and following a specific plan based on your requirements and circumstances is a proven method to make your job search easier, faster, and better. Taking time off for reasons such as being a new parent, facing health issues, or traveling to see the world shouldn’t stop you from finding an amazing job in the future. Here is what to do as a job seeker to amplify your success rate.
Firstly, start by understanding your desires. If you have lost touch with the market due to your time off, have a look at industry news, get informed about companies that are employers of choice, and research how your job function has evolved. After finalizing this high-level research, go through existing vacancies and target a few specific jobs you would love to have.
After being clear about your goal, it is time to make sure you understand and are able to articulate what you have to offer to your target employer. Have a think and list your responsibilities, achievements, and proven skills focusing on what is relevant, important, and unique. Please think of skills and strengths as transferrable, not job-specific. This will allow you to include skills that you may have acquired or improved during your time off work.
Once your list is complete, compare the target job requirements with what you have done and achieved in the past and with who you are today. If there are no gaps, move to the next step of the process. If you identify gaps, don’t worry. Gaps can be addressed as long as you have a plan on how to tackle them.
Minor technical gaps may not be a blocker to your job search and shouldn’t stop you from submitting applications, but major ones will. Here is how you can bridge gaps by acquiring new knowledge and applying it in practice. Use a combination of internet search, massive open online courses, and eBooks to acquire new skills. Once you learn the essentials, you can practice your new skills through online volunteerism or freelancing. All of the above is not meant to delay your job search, they should actually speed it up, so please focus on the essentials and don’t wait until you tick all the boxes.
Applying & Getting Found
If you’ve followed the above steps, you will already be in a strong position where you know your goal, have a deep understanding of your professional profile and are qualified to apply. As a next step, create a resume and cover letter tailored to your target jobs and make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Focus on including all concepts required for your target jobs in your documents and excluding all redundant info to amplify your screening success rate when applying and getting found by recruiters on LinkedIn. Then, start applying to new relevant jobs on a weekly basis.
While you are waiting for recruiter calls, interview invitations, and job offers, you can deploy another job searching tool, professional networking. Networking can be incredibly powerful, especially for candidates who may seem less qualified on paper due to issues, such as an employment gap. Use LinkedIn to identify professionals who have your dream job or relevant decision-makers, such as hiring managers and recruiters at your target company. Connect with them and cultivate a relationship that is value-adding to both parties by finding ways to help them with a problem or desire they have. Don’t ask them for a job, but do ask for industry insights, information about their employer, and advice on how they got where they are.
Apart from getting valuable information to use in your job search, the above networking process can enable you to get referred for your dream job, help you to learn about a vacancy before other candidates, and ultimately get you a job offer. Also, it is a great opportunity for you to make your employment gap irrelevant by showcasing your attitude, qualifications, and the benefits you bring.
In summary, it is imperative to start by understanding what you want to do, realizing what you have accomplished and what (transferable) skills you can bring to the table, and making sure you bridge any major knowledge and experience gaps. Then, creating a best-practice resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile optimized for your target jobs in combination with proactive professional networking will get you to the doorstep of your employer of choice sooner than you expect!