Have a fear of your career GAP?
Four ways to approach the chasm you're encountering on your career pathway
I dug out a nice jacket and put my best Zoom make-up on this week to take part in a panel discussion on getting women back into the work place.
(Pleased to say I scrubbed up alright, though boy do I need to get my grey roots done.) 🧑🦳
We were discussing the frustrating, high-blood-pressure-inducing subject of Unlocking Invisible Talent, which basically translates as how to stop employers writing off fantastic mums because they've had a career break or don't want to work in exactly the same way as men. Grrrrr.
After I'd had a walk along the river to feel less cross about women and work, I turned my attention to one of the topics that plagues many of us.
The wretched, stomach-churning, confidence-wobbling Gap. 🥴
Whether that's a chronological gap (you've taken a career break and now want to get back into work) or an experience gap (you want to make a career change and feel you don't have the relevant career journey) it can feel like a chasm that you just can't get over.
So I wanted to introduce you to 4 Different Ways to Approach the Gap.
Because there's how you THINK about the gap, how you TALK about the gap, how you PRESENT the gap and how you DEAL with the gap.
NUMBER ONE: WORRY
Probably your default position when it comes to thinking about the gap.
You worry about the gap and what people will think about it. You assume it's a problem and surrender to the position that "no-one will employ me because ..."
Let's face it, we know that there's plenty of prejudice and a chronic lack of imagination out there about career breaks and career redesigners.
So I'm not going to brush it under the carpet and tell you the world is always your oyster.
Sometimes there's a hint of mussel with a shell that is blimmin' tricky to open.
But if the only approach you take is to worry about your "gap" and decide it's going to be a massive problem, it's no wonder you aren't making much headway and are giving off defeatist energy. The gap in your work history or experience becomes a reason for procrastination, an excuse to do nothing.
It becomes something that embarrasses you.
So do me a favour and try some new approaches ...
NUMBER TWO: EXPLAIN
Ignore the mind monkeys in your head, make peace with the gap in your CV or your experience, and learn to explain it confidently, unapologetically and - most of all - succinctly!
Many of us feel the need to overelaborate and overshare, which has the effect of undermining our own position.
You don't need to dwell on your gap or justify it. You simply need to make a short reference to it and move on, shifting the focus to your future plans and not your past.
For more on this check out my previous blog post "Are you Your Own Worst Advocate?"
NUMBER THREE: COVER
A standard CV is heavily weighted towards your chronological work history, drawing attention to your most recent (or not so recent!) roles.
As a career returner or changer, this format can be a killer, as it tells the wrong story, hitting potential employers straight in the eyes with a job record that may have little to do with the work you want or feels uncomfortably out of date.
So rather than use a traditional Chronological CV, cover your gap by using a Functional or Skills-Based CV instead. This pushes your work record further down the document and frontloads evidence of all your highly relevant transferable skills.
Find more about Skills-Based CVs HERE.
NUMBER FOUR: BRIDGE
If the gap between you and your career redesign feels genuinely too big to leap, then consider small, practical ways to build the bridge that will take you across.
Your first thought may be to take a course, but before you invest a large amount of time and money into a huge chunk of formal retraining, you might like to consider other approaches.
Not all career moves require a shiny new certificate. Strategic volunteering, taking on mini-projects in your spare time or finding gradual upskilling opportunities at your existing workplace can all be valuable.
Using your network to connect you to helpful people with valuable advice, insight and industry information is vital.
Many career redesigns involve a period of transition. So you may not make one huge leap over your gap, but put in place a series of stepping stones.
Break down your desired outcome into a series of milestones and commit to taking small, consistent steps to move you forwards.
Soooo, how do you feel about your "gap"? Where are you in danger of falling down?
Finally, although you know I'm a tad cynical about a lot of so-called inspirational quotes, allow me to just gently hit you with this one from self-help author Bob Proctor:
"The biggest gap in your life is between what you know and what you do"
Did that hurt? Good. But I mean that nicely. I promise.