The wide-reaching bite of the global financial crisis has left many people in banking with glaring gaps on their CVs. And where once those gaps could spell doom for a banking and finance career, today they are far more accepted by employers.
What counts is what you do during your gap, and how you explain your time-out achievements to your recruiter and potential employers.
To help with that, here are a few career gap dos and don’ts from Japan’s financial services careers specialists.
1) Get educated
Kevin Naylor, finance team manager at Wall Street Associates, says working on a CPA, CFA or MBA can be a great way to add value to your resume and skill sets, assuming these things fit into a larger plan and are not just done because you have time on your hands.
Upgrading qualifications, or even becoming involved in professional associations, can also help candidates to keep current and remain positive, adds Pete Millett, director of recruitment firm People Services International.
But don’t just rush into any old course of study. Naylor cautions that you should be aware of what a qualification or degree says about you.
“For example, taking the CFA is all well and good. However, this still suggests to many in Japan that you are aiming for the front office and may hinder your chances of getting a role in a middle or back office function where stability is valued,” he says.
2) Be active or even try charity work
A CV gap is not acceptable if you spend your time out drunk in the park or slumped on the sofa getting recipe ideas watching Ladies Four. It pays if you are active and can somehow use your time out to demonstrate yourself to be driven, competitive and determined.
“If things like charity work or challenging accomplishments like a cycling tour or mountaineering expedition fit your character and are part of a larger plan to make you more competitive or well rounded, then great; they will add value in the gaps,” says Naylor.
3) Stay calm: you are not alone
Not panicking is easier said than done when you are desperate for work, but it’s worth bearing in mind that a career gap isn’t the end of the world. Resume gaps are not career killers, says Millett.
“Resume gaps are relative, and can and do happen to job seekers and interviewers alike. Especially during recessions, gaps of up to 12 months are quite common nowadays. Explain them simply, calmly, and clearly, and then refocus back to your relevant experience,” he adds.
4) Be honest
It really should be a no-brainer, but it is always worth a mention: lies will inevitably get found out, and in Tokyo’s relatively small banking and finance community that can lead to irreparable damage to your rep. If you didn’t spend your time out helping orphans in India, don’t say you did on your CV.
“Avoid dishonesty at all costs,” is Millett’s clear message.