Fixing The Résumé Gaps

You're HiredRecently, the well-know economist and columnist for the New York Times, Paul Krugman wrote an article, “The Jobless Trap.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/22/opinion/krugman-the-jobless-trap.html?_r=0)  In it he explained that we are creating a class of permanently unemployed and unemployable Americans.

He mentioned studies which demonstrate that those whose résumés show they’ve been unemployed for six months or more are seldom considered to fill available positions, no matter how great their qualifications.

Actually, that’s been pretty well-known to employment specialists for a long time.  But it’s always nice to have studies to back up observations in the field.  Just think about it, though.  If an employer looks at a work history and sees a big recent gap, he’s going to be suspicious that there’s something wrong with an employee that others keep rejecting.  Not to mention how out-of-date his experience and skills must be.  Regardless of his own experience with the candidate.  Regardless of his awareness of current economic conditions that make it extremely difficult to get jobs.

Krugman’s article was on the point of how joblessness, rather than national debt, is the greatest danger to our economy.  Please read his article, it’s a critical part of the social and economic picture we all need to think about.  However, what I want to talk about is some of the techniques that folks have used successfully to plug up those holes in the résumés that he talked about.

Think about it this way: there are millions of people who are “jobless” but still working.  And their work will show up on their résumés (or whatever work history they use, if they don’t use a resume.)

They call themselves self-employed, freelancers, consultants.  Or perhaps they call themselves students.  Maybe they call their time away from the job a sabbatical.  Or they might take temporary or contract work while “training for a new line of work” or “updating their skill-set.”

Here’s how that method works:

1. Education/Training/Skills Development

Time-out for learning new skills and professional techniques is historically honored as much as — sometimes more than — having a job to get the experience.  Find a way to show on your résumé that you purposely chose to spend your between jobs time studying to become better in your field or to qualify for a different field.

Of course, make sure that you have actually acquired the new knowledge or skills and can prove it. If you’re developing technical skills, you can learn quickly at lynda.com or udemy.com.  And don’t forget there are great classes available for free through iTunes University.

This is an especially good technique for the “older” unemployed.  Even if your technical skills were just fine before you became unemployed, it always looks great on a resume to be able to say you have some new expertise in the latest fads.  If you’re looking for management work, it’s helpful to say you’ve just acquired a certification in whatever big technique is being pushed by the “expert” consultants to corporations currently.

2. Self-employment/Consulting/Freelancing

People often opt to try self-employment as an alternative to finding a new job.  Many succeed and do better than they would if employed by others.  You many not have started it until six months after you were laid off,  but that doesn’t make your business, consulting practice or freelance portfolio any less real than the guys who decided to do it right away.  Everything you did up until that time was preparing you for it as surely as if you intended to do it immediately.  So, it’s perfectly legitimate to date your self-employment from the beginning — or near the beginning — of your unemployment..

These days, it’s simple.  Just design some business cards on your computer.  Make a blog.  Perhaps a newsletter.  Arbitrarily set the time of the start of your business for the purposes of your résumé as about two weeks after you left your last job.  That’s about the time most folks start seriously thinking about what they’ll do if they can’t find a job.

If the work you’ve decided to list as your self-employment requires licenses or permits, get them. In most places, you don’t have to publish a DBA if you simply use your own name as your business name.  But check to be sure.  There are so many books and articles online that tell you how to structure and start a business while complying with local regulations that I can’t begin to list them here.

It’s just so much more acceptable to say you’re looking for a job after being self-employed as a consultant or freelancer than saying you’ve been unemployed for six months or a year … or more.  But you can’t just say it.  You have to make it true.

And don’t forget that you might actually make an income as a self-employed person while still looking for a job.

3. Sabbaticals.

As an alternative to self-employment, consulting or freelancing, you may have used the time as a sabbatical to research and write a book.  Be sure to finish writing that book.  Just research how to publish on Kindle and CreateSpace and get that book out there.  You might make some money at it as well.  Even if your book is a flop, however, you’ve filled in that gap on your résumé where you might otherwise have been considered unemployed.

And, don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be a book.  It could be painting.  Or historical research.  Or travel for research.  Just make sure you have visible results to show for your time.

4. Temp agencies/Contract Employment

If you’ve been unemployed for three months, it’s time to make sure the gap doesn’t get larger.  Temporary agencies and contract employment are a quick fix for getting some money and some provable work time on your résumé.  Furthermore, working temp or contract gives you exposure to and time to make contacts in various companies that might hire you full time.

This is also a great way to combine with the other techniques above to say that you would have liked to work only on your own business or project during that time, but you needed extra income to fully support your start-up or your project.

There are a number of other possibilities, but the above are the more well-known and acceptable.

How to get the legal information you need to help keep you out of trouble online

Of course you don’t have a lawyer — who does?

One of the things I say in so many of my articles and posts is that there are scores of legal issues you need to think about in your work, your business and even in your personal online activities.

For example, not long ago, I wrote a series of posts about using only legal music in your videos.  I mentioned that whether you make videos for fun or profit, you can get in serious trouble if you use someone else’s copyrighted material in your productions.  And in my posts, I kept inserting disclaimers that said I’m not an attorney, so you should consult your own attorney about the issues I raised.

Now, I realize that most folks — including small business owners and entrepreneurs — don’t have attorneys and don’t seek them out unless they get threatened, ticketed, arrested or sued.  After all, attorneys are expensive.   And even people who have hired attorneys have probably once or twice used a specialist for a specific job such as writing a will or getting a divorce.

Stuff happens

But just stop and think for a moment about what could happen if you innocently “pinned” a photo on Pinterest.com and found out that the image, while it was posted lawfully by the originating website through a paid subscription, was from a big provider who objects to having its images shared for free.  Suppose you found out about it by getting a letter from the provider’s attorneys.  Oops.

Suppose you thought that whistleblower laws would keep you from being fired if you went over your boss’ head to complain how he was bullying a co-worker? And you found yourself on the street without a paycheck.

Suppose you thought you had a right to see your personnel file, to protest bad reviews, to put your own information in your file.  Good luck with that.

How the blue blazes do you keep up with what you can and can’t do?  Who or what can and can’t hurt you?  How can the average person even get an inkling of what he needs to know and do to be compliant with the law and avoid law suits and fines?

Getting informed

Fortunately, there are a number of websites that can help you with that. Through their various books, articles, blogs, forums, online forms to fill out, and referrals to attorneys if you need them, they can guide you through both general and specialized information you must have to stay as safe as possible.  Much of the information they offer is free.

If you can’t find what you need to know or if you need help from a real person, you can always use these sites’ referral services. And perhaps, with this added information, you’ll get an idea of how complicated some of the issues are and when you actually do need to speak with a professional.

Here are the three best known sites for finding information and lawyer referrals (I have no relationship with them, other than having been a customer of one of them):

Nolo.com.  Nolo has been around since 1971 as a publisher of law-related do-it-yourself books and forms.  It has a sterling reputation for providing DIY materials that are easy to read and understand.  As a website, it has expanded to include a large network of both legal and other professional sites that provide specialized information and referrals.  I’ve personally purchased a number of Nolo publications over the years, starting well before the Internet became public.  I’ve also continuously recommended its publications to friends and clients who wanted to try DIY before consulting attorneys.  They have an extensive collection of free articles, more than twenty different general and specialized blogs, podcasts, a YouTube channel, books and software, and referrals to attorneys.

Legalzoom.com is more about helping you fill out the forms and go through the steps of routine legal necessities like incorporating, getting a trademark, making your will and so on.  They have a nice collection of free articles and videos to add to your education about legal matters, both business and personal.

Rocketlawyer.com provides step-by-step online handholding in preparing the most usual documents you need to run your business or life.  If you need more help, they’ll help you connect with a lawyer who specializes in your particular issues.  And, they have a good collection of articles to help you understand the basics of the legals issues you’re most likely to need to know.

Also, if you want some ideas for getting low-cost or free legal services, see the video below from Entrepreneur.com (If the video doesn’t show up below, find it at http://www.entrepreneur.com/video/223541):

Workplace Magic: Almost Instant Conflict Management

This technique is for people directly involved in a conflict, not their managers, employees or business partners. It only works for those who actually have the power to end the conflict.

The Three Things You Have To Realize

1. Conflict isn’t about the facts, it’s about the feelings. If you are in conflict, you feel that you have been cheated, betrayed, victimized, helpless (disempowered), unfairly blamed, abandoned, unjustly penalized, ignored, marginalized, discriminated against or whatever. And you feel angry. Perhaps you feel hurt.

2. Most conflict is petty. It just doesn’t feel petty to the people involved. That is to say, the actual facts or cause of the feelings behind the conflict are petty. Most of the time, the causes of conflict are repeated annoyances by people who can’t get away from one another.

Conflicts usually involve things like offices mates who constantly talk too much or too loudly on the phone while you try to work. Or people who drop into your office or cubicle to whine and complain and waste your time. Or people who manipulate things so you end up doing their work. Or people who gossip about you. People who tell lies about you. Bosses who don’t back you or support you. Bosses who don’t listen when you report issues that affect your work. Bosses who ignore your expert advice, which you were hired to give them. Or senseless office rules that interfere with your work or your ability to perform your best.

Sure, there are plenty of things that happen that are serious. And you need to deal with those, too. But most the most common conflict you find at work is in the nature of what psychologists call simple “ego injuries.” You feel hurt and angry because something bothersome is going on that you can’t control and it makes you feel powerless and unimportant.

3. The person who controls his emotions wins the conflict. Because ending the conflict is winning. If you take charge of your emotions you take the power in the conflict. Regardless of rank, status or relative strength.

 

The Two Things You Have To Do

 

1. Refuse engagement or disengage from conflict — let it go. The conflict can only remain if both parties contend. You can let it go if you accept this one simple fact as truth: no matter what you do you cannot directly change (or fix) another person or another person’s behavior. (It also helps to realize that you can’t change his mind, beliefs or feelings, either. At least not directly.)

The conflict is about your trying to change someone else or his/her behavior. By some sort of force. That person is resisting. He thinks he’s right. He knows he’s right. He feels he’s right. It’s like trying to change someone’s religion or politics. Can’t be done.

But think about it for a moment. You, too, think you are right and that the other person is wrong. He can’t change you either. The real conflict in a conflict is each side trying to force the other to do something he doesn’t want to do. It doesn’t have to do with who’s right or wrong. It doesn’t even have to do with who is stronger. It has to do with how you get and use power. And the only real power to change is the power you use to control your own feelings and behavior.

You can change how you look at what is happening and change what you do. You can stop struggling to get the other person to change.

You can start doing things that make the other party have to change in response to your behavior. Or you can do something that makes his behavior irrelevant. For example, if the person is constantly annoying you with noise, you can simply ignore him and wear headphones with noise cancellation or earplugs.

Sure, he’s an inconsiderate pig. So what? Your real solution is to stop the noise, not reform the pig. You can go directly for the end result you want through your own power rather than through trying to force a solution on someone over whom you have no power.

2. Explore and plan for resolution of the underlying dispute — even if only you, all by yourself, work out the plan and create the outcome. Once you have accepted that the only thing you really have control over is yourself, you can get clear on how to solve your problem without involving the other party in the solution.

If you choose to disengage from conflict, the conflict is over. Almost instantly. Seemingly magically. And it reveals to you that, all along, you had the power you had to get what you really needed.

The following two YouTube videos have different perspectives and different issues involved in workplace conflict.

Depersonalizing Petty Personality Issues.

This video by Ed Trimnell is addressed to someone who is rather new to the workplace, but it works for anyone:

4 Magic Phrases.

This video by Daniel O’Connor of Power Diversity takes on the issue of how to respond to negativity in workplace communication. It’s both entertaining and helpful.