In my last blog, I talked about how some career experts are saying that potential employers may look suspiciously at a person who has worked for the same company for more than five years without signs of skyrocketing upward. According to the experts, that stability might convey that person's lack of initiative.
That may or may not be something to worry about. But what about the other end of the spectrum? What if you're been out of work or away from the IT world for many months or years? What's the best way to present yourself to potential employers?
Taking a break from a career is risky in any case, but probably even more so in IT, a line of work that demands up-to-the-date skills. In an article on monster.com, Jenna Gausman says that techies "who want to return at the same level should take no more than six months off. A break of one or two years means you're going to have to be willing to take a lesser position."
So what do you do to make the long gaps less of a liability? The monster.com article suggests three strategies:
1. Stay in touch with your network. Do this socially, by e-mail, or the occasional phone call, but keep your face and name fresh in your contacts' minds.
2. Maintain and continuously develop your technical skills. Sometimes people leave one skill area to try test the waters in another. But they often find the new career isn't what they'd expected. It's easier to go back if you've taken some time during your experiment to earn an IT cert, or do some small-scale consulting.
3. Demonstrate continued initiative and enthusiasm for the field. Read trade publications and keep up on the latest and the coolest technologies.
Here are some other important strategies suggested in the article:
- Stay in touch with managers and others who can serve as references.
- Participate in online groups to network from home.
- Read trade publications to stay current in your areas of expertise.
- Get experience by working part-time or volunteering.
- Prepare to be tested on your skills.
- Update certifications or other credentials.
- Consider returning to school, especially if you lack a bachelor's degree.
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.