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Returning to work in your 50s: Overcoming an employment gap in your CV

Article by Ceri Wheeldon

As the state pension age rises many women in their 50s are now having to look at working for far longer than any us anticipated  but what can you do if you have been out of the workplace for a while and have no idea where to start when it comes to looking for a job ? Many women over 50 are choosing to set up their own business, but the entrepreneurial route is not an option for everyone, so where do you start if you are looking for conventional employment . What do you do if you have to explain an employment gap in your CV?

Turning a gap in your CV into a positive

First of all you have to assess your skills

What was the last paid employment you had? How long ago was it? Does that role still exist today?  Have the skills you need to that job today changed?

Be realistic – and honest with yourself. If you still have the skills but need to explain why you have a gap in your CV, then explain that gap in a positive, productive way.

Make a list of all the things you have done since you were previously employed . Write next to that list what you learned as part of that activity- and what additional skills and experience that now enables you to bring to the workplace.

For instance – if you essentially took time out of work to raise a family – look at the activities that entailed. …such as multi tasking , negotiating. Did you volunteer for committees and events at schools or clubs, did you help fund raise ? If so how did this help develop your organisational abilities, working under pressure,  setting/achieving  targets, getting results with minimum budget etc.  etc.  Build a picture of how that time out has helped develop your skills and potential value as an employee.  Has having children kept you up to date with technology –  nearly every job today requires basic IT skills – if you have been helping with homework or keeping in touch via social media you have probably developed skills and knowledge along the way – analyse these – how could they be used in the workplace?

How much have your skills and value as a potential employee grown since your last job?

Potential employers like to see commitment, flexibilty and growth when looking at a CV- as well as skills. You can demonstrate these during your ‘gap’ just as well as you can if you are employed.  In my experience of interviewing candidates for jobs – if somebody said that they had 10 years experience, I had to evaluate if they had actually progressed during those 10 years and what they could offer over and above somebody who had been in a similar role for only 2 years.  If somebody had been in a role/industry for 10 years had they stagnated in a role and  they effectively just repeated one year ten times, or had they developed year on year and were now able to offer considerably more  to an employer in terms of skills and contribution to the role? So, however long your ‘gap’ in your CV happens to be – then  look for the areas of growth for you.

If you recognise that your skills are outdated, then take personal responsibility to bring them up to speed. Go on courses – both in person and online. Volunteer – this helps develop experience AND contacts.

Get in touch with former colleagues – ask if you can shadow them to see just what the job entails in today’s  market . Sign up with a temp agency – be flexible in terms of what you are prepared to do – even if what’s on offer might seem like a step down.

While looking for a job see identify opportunities to  volunteer – it demonstrates commitment, working to a schedule, you will expand your network and potentially learn new skills or have access to different systems and technology.

A gap in career history can be overcome if you approach it in a positive and constructive way.

Good luck in your job search – and take a look at my other tips relating to planning your job search, interviews, and lots more.

Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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