Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fill the gaps...

When I talk to people who have been out of work for more than 90 days, I share with them the importance of explaining any gaps in employment. The longer the gap, the more explaining you have to do, but any period of time longer than 90-days requires some kind of explanation.

For some, the explanation might be that they retired, took some time to travel, and are returning to the workforce. Another might say, I had a baby and stayed home with my child for the past three years. There are many very plausible explanations that employers will accept. In the event that you don’t have a very good story to tell, you have to create one. The best way to do that, is to volunteer in your community.

I want to tell a story to illustrate my point. This past weekend, I attended the Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Orientation. My initial intention was to go help build houses, because I love to do construction work and this is a good vehicle for me to do it. I also have a personal mission, to have a positive influence and improve the lives of others, and this fills that criterion very well.

After sitting through the orientation, and learning about the organization, how people qualify for a Habitat Home, and the impact it has on families, I found the experience to be simply astounding. Yes, I will get to work with my hands, and yes I will have a positive impact on others, but having done nothing yet, I can tell you that I am impassioned to a new degree.

There was a little boy, maybe five years old, and his mother at the orientation. She shared her experience from the side of the homeowner. Half the room was in tears, the other half was certainly choked-up. Her emotional connection to the value Habitat and the volunteers that helped build her house runs very deep. She explained that she still keeps in touch with many of the people who worked on her house, nearly three years ago.

What I can tell you is this. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to explain a gap, the best way to do that is to find an organization that moves you, that you can be passionate about, that you can be committed to, and that meets your personal mission. The impact you will have on others is tremendous, but the relationships you can build will be invaluable, and may even lead you to a new career.

Remember, employers are looking for the value you bring to an organization. Sometimes having a committed member of the community is an intangible asset to a company. It shows that you have a deep connection to the community, that you are a dedicated person, that you are unselfish, and most importantly, you show depth in character. The best time to start volunteering is right now. Get involved today. Don’t wait until tomorrow, because every day that goes by, the gap gets wider and harder to explain.

I can’t wait to start building homes for people, and I challenge you to find something you can’t wait to do too…


  1. Ben,
    This is great advice that I just passed on to a friend that has been out of work for a while and has been complaining of boredom.
    Chris Wasserman

  2. Thanks Chris. I appreciate you sharing this message with your friend. Boredome is a dangerous emotion and can lead to devastating depression and other things that will make it even more dificult to find work. I hope he finds something interesting, meaningful, and relevant to to keep himself busy...