How To Prepare for Your Next IT Job After a Career Gap

Written By Majd Fakhoury

There's career lessons Software Engineers get at some point.

We all may face certain circumstances in life that cause us to leave our programming jobs and stay unemployed for a while, especially moms and dads who have to take care of their kids. Sometimes it's difficult to return to your developer career after a while.

Leaving the IT field for a month seems like leaving it for a year. The IT field changes rapidly; there are new programming languages, new platforms to develop applications, and new concepts. New needs always arise. What’s needed today wasn’t needed or didn’t even exist five to 10 years ago, and certainly won’t exist or be needed five to 10 years from now. What you are professional at now may not be needed or used in the next two to five years.

Unfortunately, many employers are afraid of hiring someone with a career gap. Some of them don’t even call applicants with gaps for an interview to discuss the opportunity or to ask about their employment gap.

While it’s difficult to find a job in IT after a gap, it’s not impossible. But you will have to be well prepared for your next opportunity, your new coworkers, and your new managers. Things have definitely changed since you left your job.

Here are some tips that can help you reenter the workforce after an employment gap.

Manage Your Time

When you're out of work, you have more flexibility and control of your own time but a less organized day; you can make your own schedule and set your own deadlines. When you commit to a job and long working hours, this is not the case.

You have limited time during the day, especially when working in the IT field. You have to commit to deadlines and stay late at work. You may even have to take your work home with you or work through weekends.

Of course, this is something you used to do in the past, but now it could be different and more difficult to achieve. If you have a family and kids, your circumstances are not the same. You have to adapt to these changes, be more organized, and manage your time properly.

You can use the timer and calendar applications on your mobile devices to help you. Drawing a chart with a daily schedule for your appointments and commitments is also helpful. This allows other family members to remind you of an appointment in case you missed it and add their own commitments. It’s a good family practice; they have to get used to your new schedule and start realizing that things won’t be the same.

It’s a struggle at the beginning, but don’t worry. Everything is going to be all right, especially if you’re determined to make this work and stay as flexible as you can.

Don’t Expect to Pick Up Where You Left Off

Keep in mind, returning to work after a while won’t get you paid as you were before. You likely won’t get the same position, either. You may work for or report to people who once reported to you. The work or work environment may also be different.

For instance, communications between employees and managers are easier and faster now. They use WhatsApp, Skype, etc. instead of email, and this wasn’t very common five years ago. Video conferencing allows meetings to be conducted completely online, whether employees are in the office, outside the office, outside the country, or at home—everyone can attend the meeting wherever they are.

This communication revolution has made remote work more common than ever before, allowing people to work from anywhere with the click of a mouse. This maybe wasn’t the case when you left your previous job.

Freelancing work is on the rise, too. There are a lot of online platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr that specialize only in freelance work helping programmers find jobs that better fit their lives.

Outsourcing work is becoming more preferable by employers. Introducing the cloud computing technology makes it less expensive to have the complete maintenance of software and hardware solutions done by an outsourcing company. The increased use of smartphones and mobile apps have made this kind of work a more viable solution; it gives flexibility to both the employer and the employee.

Many employers are also moving toward more contract work. They prefer to hire programmers on a contract basis or per project rather than as full-time employees. Your next contract might be for a limited time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, working on different projects from time to time keeps you aware of the latest technologies in the market and enriches your experience. It gives you more flexibility in your schedule where you can have more time for your family.

These are all viable options for you. If you’re having trouble landing a traditional office job or want something different, consider remote work, an outsourcing job, a contract job, or working as a freelancer as good opportunities to help you achieve your work-life balance.

Be Prepared to Work Hard

You must work hard to prove yourself. Returning after a while makes you like a fresh graduate who has little to no experience in the newest technology in the market. You have to prove that you are a fast learner and capable of doing any task.

You might also be under close supervision at the beginning, and you have to perform well during your probation period or risk termination.

What’s most important during this time is to show interest in your work and a willingness to complete any assignment. Don’t be selective. Show your employer that your career gap didn’t impact your efficiency and desire to work.

Show your peers that you are ready to perform any task and help them finish their work and achieve their deadlines.

Turn Discouragement Into Action

If it’s taking you a while to find a position, don’t lose hope. Keep looking for a suitable opportunity, whether it’s full-time office work, part-time employment, remote work, or freelancing work—just choose what suits you.

In the meantime, don’t be idle. Fill your time by taking online courses and learning about the new technologies to follow up and to stay up-to-date. You can volunteer in community events or do IT work for nonprofit organizations or charities.

Fill your resume with activities related to the industry to prove to your interviewer or employer that you’re aware of the newest technology and you can compete with other candidates in the field.

Be Open to Career Changes

You may have to change your career and seek different opportunities in different areas—areas you like, of course. It is scary and a difficult decision to make, but sometimes you have to make decisions like this to go on with your life.

Look into technical writing opportunities that let you use your skills as a programmer, like content authoring or online writing work—if writing is what you like. There are lots of online sites that can guide you through this. Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest also offer a lot of help in this area.

Again, it’s not going to be easy, but you have to give it a try. It might be the time to discover yourself and what you really like, what you are passionate about. You might be surprised by what you’ll achieve or accomplish; it can change your life forever.

Keep Calm and Don’t Give Up

Jumping back in after a break isn’t easy, and is certainly not always a good experience. It requires patience and acceptance of the fact that our experience and qualifications may no longer be needed in the work field.

Being rejected all the time can bring us down and lower our self-confidence, but keep your spirits up and don’t give up. Change your career if you have to, change your way of living (for the better, of course). Just don’t stay still.