As of April, more than 20.6 million jobs have been lost in the US as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic—more than double the Great Depression and unprecedented in terms of unemployment rates in the United States. If you've lost your job due to COVID-19, you may be wondering how you'll explain this employment gap to potential employers. In this article, we discuss what an employment gap is and how you can address employment gaps to hiring managers when you start your next job search.
What is an employment gap?
An employment gap is any time in which a person is not employed at a job. This period of time can be weeks, months or even years depending on the person's situation. People can have an employment gap for several reasons including going back to school, staying home with children or traveling. During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever have lost their jobs as a direct result of the closure requirements that all non-essential employers have faced. This unprecedented time will result in millions of individuals having employment gaps on their resumes.
Related: How to Explain Gaps in Employment
How to address employment gaps as a result of COVID-19
If you've lost your job as a result of COVID-19, you may be concerned about how you will explain this employment gap to future employers. Here are several ways you can address the employment gap on your resume professionally and effectively.
Remain focused and positive
Losing a job is a challenging experience and can leave many people feeling discouraged about finding a new job. This is especially true for people who have never had an employment gap on their resumes before. However, it's important to remain focused and positive during this time and not let your employment gap interfere with your job search. Remember that millions of other individuals around the world are experiencing the same thing and that you are not alone in your current unemployment.
Be honest with potential employers
More people than ever have been or are being laid off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and employers are aware of this situation and the unprecedented job loss millions are experiencing. While you may be tempted to leave out your employment gap on your resume or make up an excuse as to why you were out of work, instead be honest with potential employers about your employment gap. Many employers will likely be understanding about employment gaps due to COVID-19 and will not hold this against you when considering you for a position at their company.
Include a note in your resume about your job loss due to COVID-19
To ensure hiring managers understand that your employment gap is a direct result of COVID-19, you may want to include a brief blurb on your resume or cover letter explaining this. Doing so may help potential employers quickly see why you are out of a job and may also prevent hiring managers from dismissing your resume due to an employment gap.
Take initiative while unemployed
While being unemployed is certainly not ideal, you can use this time to expand your knowledge and skills related to your career. For example, you could take a free online course or volunteer your time to your community. You can also contact mentors or former employers to see if there are any projects you could help out with on a freelance or part-time basis. Staying active and involved in your career despite being unemployed shows future employers your commitment to focusing on solutions and growing professionally.
Explain your job-seeking efforts
When interviewing for a job position, be sure to explain that you have been actively searching for jobs and building skills while being unemployed. This shows employers that you took initiative after being laid off and didn't let your job loss prevent you from being productive and taking initiative. You can also discuss any project-based assignments you worked on while unemployed or any educational or vocational learning you did to further your career. The goal is to portray yourself as someone who continued to be productive and resilient despite the loss of a job.
Update your resume
When you have an employment gap on your resume, it's important to ensure that you thoroughly portray your skills and abilities in the job section for previous jobs you've held. Be specific about your skills, accomplishments and awards and highlight them in both your resume and cover letter. The better your resume is, the more likely potential employers will consider you despite an employment gap.
Read more: How to Write a Resume During COVID-19
Call on your network
If you've built a network of professional contacts throughout your career, now is the time to use it. Reach out to people in your network and inquire about open jobs in your field and whether they would be willing to put in a good word for you with potential employers. Going into a job interview with the recommendation from a trusted professional in your field can help increase your chances of being seen in a positive light despite employment gaps.
Ask previous employers to be your references
Many job applications ask for professional references who can vouch for your ability to perform the job that you're applying for well. If you can list your most recent employer as well as other employers you've previously worked for as references, it will show hiring managers that you still have a good relationship with these employers and were not laid off for negative reasons. And, if the hiring manager calls your most recent employer as a reference, the employer can explain to the hiring manager that you were laid off as a direct result of COVID-19.
Set goals and practice self-care
While having an employment gap can be challenging when applying for jobs, it's important to remain diligent if you aren't hired for the first few jobs you apply for. It's important to remember that employers are also trying to sort out the best steps to take for their business, which may affect hiring timelines.
Set a daily or weekly application goal to stay on top of relevant opportunities and reward yourself in small, meaningful ways when you've met your goal. Stay patient and positive by taking breaks, practicing self-care and investing in skill development as you search for jobs.