Gaps Are The Devil

One of the most significant permanent changes in the post 2008 job market is that gaps of any kind of your resume are treated with the fear once reserved for bad plastic surgery. Gaps on a resume are the devil when it comes to job search.

Why is this? For some reason, the post Greater Recession perception of gaps on your resume is that something really bad happened. Or that you aren’t an (I hate to even type this offensive phrase) “A player.” For years, I’ve been asking people to define the term A player and they can’t really. So I think it’s code for under 40, has no children and wants to eat dinner at the office at their desk

Gaps are now bad. Remember the 90s? When going on vacation or on a sabbatical was considered a good thing?  When doing interesting things like travel was a positive?  I once went on a sabbatical for 6 months to travel around the US and Europe and had the best time in decades. Almost 20 years later, I think of it as a highlight of my life. Now, I’d be afraid to do it unless I could combine it with a project. So essentially disguise my personal growth and expansion. The new normal.

Gap Avoidance

So what do you do to avoid having gaps on your resume? First, try to avoid surprise job loss. Plan ahead if your company is financially troubled.  Especially if they are doing waves of downsizing.  Execute a continuous job search strategy since every job is essentially a long term gig without any guarantees.  Always be networking, keeping up on your certifications and updating your resume and LinkedIn.

However, if you suddenly find yourself without a job, and need immediate income, know that job searches are taking longer and longer.

Job searches can take months. I don’t know about you, but if you need to pay your mortgage, dealing with the uncertainty of looking for a job is stressful enough. Many employers only pay a litte

My feeling – might was well work while you are waiting.  It’s better for your financially, psychologically and emotionally. Also, many contract roles convert to full time roles. Additionally, many times contract employees are hired into other roles at the client organization. Just like it is so much easier to get a promotion to the next level and title when you already work at a company, it’s much easier to actually get any job offer when they already know you.

Ban The Gap

So the best advice is Ban the Gap.  Contract while you are interviewing and conducting your epic job search. The great thing about contract gigs is that they know you are interviewing.  They expect you to go on interviews.

There are a lot of reasons you might want to consider high level interim project work:

  1. Relocation to a new market
  2. Downsized from FT job and need immediate work
  3. Late career professional seeking reduced hours
  4. Financially set mid career professional who is seeking flexibility to travel or volunteer
  5. Waiting for FT job offer that is projected to take significant time to come through
  6. Transitioning military actively interviewing in the private sector for the first time
  7. New college grads seeking to launch corporate careers and fast track entry into the job market.


It’s not temping anymore.

You’ll find a lot of W2 hourly contract work for working professionals.  There are many reasons why companies need to fill an interim gig with a seasoned professional. They include:

Leave of Absence coverage

Role vacated due to sudden departure of incumbent that can’t be open

Hard to fill role that hasn’t been filled

Long term project that will end and not become a permanent full time role


Working professionals have a lot of potential resources to utilize when sourcing contract opportunities:


Management consulting firms

Professional services firms

Advisory practices and interim engagement


How to find the best agencies and firms in your area? Search online using these search terms:


Contract work


Employment agencies

Temporary agencies

Consulting gigs


You may even want to create a special interim contract work version of your resume that is still chronological in format. But it will focus on your vital interim engagement toolkit. This toolkit may be slightly different from your regular resume for full time roles. It might provide more tactical project level skills that are highly marketable for contract engagements.


How Long Is Too Long?


Many job seekers, especially those older than 50, do not understand that they will be considered long term unemployed after 6 months of unemployment. They also do not understand that their job searches will take 2-4 times longer than workers under 40 with similar skills. Age discrimination is that bad. That’s why taking a few weeks off, doing a mini sabbatical and working on a project within a month is a solid game plan for most newly unemployed professionals.


How to Negotiate Rate

Most contract engagements will be W2 hourly and it’s important to understand that your current salary isn’t what will drive your hourly rate. The agency will have a bill rate and pay rate. They make their money on the spread.

The project rate will be based and impacted by a number of factors – market rate, client budget and contract rates, commute time, etc….as well as any specialized, hard to find skills required.  Most of the agencies will offer PTO accrual and benefits based on hours worked. They will take out your taxes. It’s a good deal for you.


Bridge the Gap

So now you know. Gaps on your resume are the devil. It’s ok to take a month to transition but after that, get to work. And contracts, projects and interim gigs are worthy work options that can lead to even more opportunities at client companies. Most importantly, they both bridge the gap and ban the gap on your resume.