Mind The Gap

mind the gap photoHave you been out of work?

Many people have. The gap may have been a month while following a spouse for a move across the country or for a year or more to raise children. While shorter gaps are less likely to raise eyebrows, gaps longer than 6 months may provoke questions. Many employers will likely not be overly concerned about gaps in your resume unless they are unexplainable so be prepared with an answer if your time off work is questioned.
Work experience gaps can be caused by a variety of reasons but the reason most people would think of is being downsized (or fired) and not having another job lined up. Having a child and staying out of work to care for it, having an accident or other surgery and needing time to recover, needing to care for an elderly relative, or following a spouse across the country or the world for their new work opportunity are all other situations which you may not plan on occurring until they actually do.

Let me tell you how I experienced three of these situatons. First, in 1994, my husband was asked to work out of his company’s London office for a few years. I was happily employed with a bright future at a great company but I, rather unwillingly, quit to move abroad. Second, when we returned to the US a few years later, we started having children. Several maternity leaves in a row led me to decide to work for myself and from home in order to have the flexibility needed with 3 children under age 5. Fast forward a few years, and our family moved to Munich, and then back to the US, and then to the Netherlands, all for my husband’s job. We arrived back in the US in 2012 and then in April of 2013, a 42′ tree fell on me which required multiple surgeries and 2 years of occupational therapy visits. While I have not been called upon to care for elderly parents yet, I expect that to happen sometime down the line.

Two years in London, a year in Munich, three years in Amsterdam, 2 years for recovering from an accident and numerous years for childcare could have potentially left numerous and large gaps in my resume but they did not. In fact, if you look at my resume you will see no indications of any of these events

When I lived in London, my “gap filler” consisted of working as a consultant and doing many short-term projects for various US Based companies. This is a great way to fill a gap and continue getting experience but usually relies heavily on contacts to make it work and you end up relying on others to be successful. If I had arrived there and not found consulting projects, I would have had a gap of several years.

You can take things into your own hands by creating products. Creating products does not mean you give up part-time consulting efforts or contract work but instead help ensure that you have multiple streams of income which can be key, especially if you are out of work. Even if that income is very small, it doesn’t really matter since this “job” can fill your gaps.

What kind of products are we talking about? The things you are most familiar with are probably eBooks and Webinars but there are many options you can start on right now and that it key. Did you ever hear the saying “Plant Your Seeds Before You Need Shade?” (or the slightly different version of the Greek proverb about old men planting trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in, but I like this version better.) Creating products before you need to fill a gap is key since once you are in a gap, you are going to need at least a little time to complete it. Even if you are not going to go all out and get a product out there right now for people to buy, you can at least come up with the idea, start a website and have a draft so you are ready to go when the time comes.

Need an idea? Use what you already have. If you have been working for awhile you no doubt have gained some knowledge and expertise in a particular area. What topic could you write or speak easily about? You already know more than you think you do.
When developing your idea and product, think about your objectives. Do you simply want a way to keep your skills fresh, fill your resume gap or do you want to make money? How much are you willing and able to finance your product? Are you hoping your product will produce job leads? Will your product help with your personal branding and thereby help you to market yourself? Think about what you want to accomplish through your efforts before you start.

Are you getting excited? Creating products can be a lot of fun especially if you have a creative side and love trying new things but even if you don’t, that’s okay. You can still get this done.

There is another tree related quote by Abraham Lincoln I like to share: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” To translate this into product development, spend double the time preparing to create your product as you do actually creating it. What does this mean? If you take the time upfront for prep work including finding and securing a domain name, setting up a landing page or webpage, gathering a list of possible customers, getting a PayPal account, desiging the packaging or cover and then getting the cover as a 3D image for marketing purposes, you will have everything in place once your product is complete. You can even do a lot of these things simultaneously. Hire someone to design your cover for example and while they work on that for a few days, work on your product. Developing the actual content is likely going to be easier for you than putting all of the other pieces in place since your product is based on your existing knowledge and all of this other stuff is new.

Once your product is complete, decide what you want to do with it. Let’s go back to your objectves. Is this meant to fill a gap in your resume? If so, start crafting a name for this temporary “job” and a description showing off your talents and update your resume. If you hope to make some money, put on your marketing hat and start doing market research in ernest.

Now the time has come to create your product. If you did your prep work and already have a simple webpage set up, and you have your image files, and you have been working on a contact list, you can get started right away. There are so many options for each of these steps that I can’t cover them all here but will try to address them in a future post but if you really want to get going, check out GoDaddy’s website builder. If you get your domain name through GoDaddy, you can get a website for free for 30 days. I have created many websites using many of the free and paid providers and GoDaddy is one of the easiest. You don’t need a credit card to try it out (and it’s fully functioning for the 30 day trial period) so you really have nothing to lose.

The idea behind this post was to encourage you to take what you know, turn it into a product and then use it to fill a gap in your resume. Of course there are ways to make money from products but no one will ever know if you never made a sale. But, you will have something to show for your time out of work and that will show that you kept your skills sharp and stayed in the game. Creating a product as a temporary job will give you something to show on your resume during gap periods plus has the added benefit of providing future employers a way to check out your work too. Of course the best time to work on your products is before you need to benefit from them but the option is yours. Plant your seeds before you need shade, and that gap won’t matter at all.

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