Recently someone wrote to me who was wondering how to explain gaps on his resume. He had done well in college. Afterward, he had a few part-time jobs, with time gaps in between. He suffered significant social anxiety and was stressed about applying (and hopefully interviewing) for a better job. I wrote him a long response, and thought some of this may be useful to others, even if the situation isn’t exactly the same.
Use the Poor Economy to Your Advantage
The recent poor economic conditions mean that there are many people with gaps in their resume. You are still young, and many people your age have little to no significant work experience. You don't say what your education or training is, but you did well academically.
Reframe Lack of Experience
If asked about your lack of experience, you could say: "I was fortunate that I was able to devote my full efforts to my studies. If I get the job, I would focus on my work just as I did on my studies. My academic record shows that I am very capable."
Acknowledge Your Anxiety if Necessary
My husband, also a psychologist, tells the story of his first interview for a psychologist position with a juvenile court. He was so nervous that his hands were shaking. The more he tried to appear calm, the worse it became. The interviewer asked him how he would do in court testimony given how anxious he appeared. Greg responded: "You're right, I am very nervous because I really want this job. I would love this work and I have great training in this area. I believe I would do well in court--even though I'm visibly nervous today, I have still been able to answer all your questions appropriately." He got the job, and that is how he started his career.
Plan for Questions
Greg is now in management and was recently on the other side of the interviewing table. He had one woman explain the gaps in her resume this way: "I have had difficulty finding a good job, so I have worked a lot of part-time jobs. Then I realized I needed to improve my skills, so I took additional classes. I'm always looking to improve myself and make myself more marketable." I realize this example may not fit you, but the point is, she planned a way to address the question she was likely to be asked. That helped her come across as more confident.
Highlight Traits Positively
Many people are in the same position, even if they don't have anxiety. If you feel a need to explain your anxiety, you might frame it positively: "I sometimes can feel rather anxious. Sometimes that means I don't perform so well in an interview. On the other hand, this characteristic makes me very hard working and conscientious, which helped me do so well in school. I believe it would also enable me to be very productive in this position."
One theme here is that anxiety has positive aspects, although it is unpleasant at the time.
Practice with a Supportive Person
Do mock interviews with a family member, friend, or fellow student. Many people with anxiety avoid practicing, because it raises their anxiety level. But this is a mistake. In the end, you’ll come across as more confident and less anxious if you’ve practiced. There are many resources on the Internet that list common interview questions and possible answers. You don't have to give the recommended answers, but by practicing, you will be able to find what answers fit for you.
If you have any other tips to share, feel free to leave them in the comments!
You might also like:
Three Ways to Deal with In-the-Moment Anxiety
Using Coping Cards to Help Manage Anxiety
Six Ways to Be Kind to Yourself When Trying New Things
Shyness is nice and
shyness can stop you
from doing all the things in life
you’d like to.
–Ask, by The Smiths
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