Is it really a career gap if you’re still working, hustling, and learning new skills? Not really. Not if you plan, leverage, and feature it correctly. Do you know how to do this? Are you doing this?

It has been reported that nearly 3 million women have dropped out of the workforce since the Covid-19 pandemic started. That’s a staggering number along the lines of a mass exodus not seen before. Once we come out the other side of this pandemic, will women be able to overcome this gap in their career and either obtain the same level of position they left or jump the gap to reach their ultimate career goal? This article strives to show women that the answer is a resounding yes, Yes, YES!

1) Channel Your Attitude to Build Confidence
First, to assure any woman reading this, you are not alone. Women typically experience a career gap at least once within the span of their career. How you choose to leverage that gap, during it, on your resume and LinkedIn profile afterwards, is up to you.

Attitude is everything. You’re capable and have everything you need within you to get to the desired career level. Now it’s up to you to believe in yourself to do it. Be your own great cheerleader and acknowledge all that you’ve done and accomplished up to this point – the risks you’ve taken and challenges you’ve overcome to be where you are today in growing your character, talents, and skill sets. It’s no small feat. You’ve done great things. Give yourself a hug and pat on the back. An exercise in this can be writing down and verbally repeating daily affirmations, in present and positive tense, to yourself in order to mentally remind yourself of all that you are and rewire any negative thought patterns to positive ones (i.e. “I am a successful leader of an accounting team”, “Everything I work on is successful”, and “I am enough just the way I am”).

2) Don’t Downplay Your Accomplishments
Too many women downplay their accomplishments and all they truly did during their career gap. Recently I worked with a woman regarding just this. She desired to be on executive boards, but feared that her career gap would hold her back from this dream. Once she explained why the gap occurred, that she was taking care of dying parents, and what she did during it, that this time also entailed selling off their cattle business (at a profit mind you), I practically shouted from the rooftop that this was not a typical gap because she WAS working during it and that she can successfully leverage this time period in her career.

In a recent LinkedIn report, it was discovered that women typically only apply for a position when they feel that they meet 100% of the criteria, however, men apply when they meet about 60% of the criteria. Why is this? Self-confidence in ones’ abilities, skills, and talents. As previously mentioned, women need to acknowledge, celebrate, and be their own biggest cheerleader when it comes to accomplishments, skills, and abilities. If you don’t support and cheer for yourself, who will? Embrace all that you are and don’t downplay what you offer to others, a company, a team, a position.

3) Plan Out and Strategize the Gap
Regardless of the reason(s) for the career gap and whether it’s coming or you’re already in the gap, sit down with pen in hand and reverse engineer reaching your career goal. Think ahead to what your ultimate career goal is – tasks/jobs you like to do, title you prefer, company culture you desire, company you want to work in, department, level, etc. – then objectively walk back through what the micro-steps will need to be in obtaining this goal. Think through any certifications, schooling, articles, and books you can complete to reach your end goal. Are there volunteer and/or community opportunities that will provide you with skills needed for your goal? Don’t underestimate the value provided from participating on school, community, charity, neighborhood associations, and professional committees.

4) Network! Network! Network!
Part of leveraging the value of volunteering and participating in committees, as mentioned before, is the importance to do so for the networking opportunities these provide. Don’t underestimate the value of your network and surrounding networks. Building these relationships is not only important for one’s own mental wellbeing, it’s also important for possible opportunities you may want later on.

Look for, go after, and nurture as many relationships as possible. As you foster these relationships look for the win-win. Not only what they can offer you, but what you can offer them. Can you help build each other’s connections, skills, opportunities? As you reach out to others to see where you can help, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that it will return to you in helping you where and when needed as well. Then when you’re ready to jump back into the workforce, you’ll have a warm (ready to help) network to tap into for possible opportunities.

5) Spotlight Your Accomplishments
Finally, as you get ready to jump back into the workforce, don’t forget the necessity to add this time period to your resume and LinkedIn profile. Your resume and LinkedIn profile is just that – YOURS. YOU own your resume and LinkedIn profile, not your previous bosses or companies worked in. Leverage both to showcase all the tasks, skills, accomplishments you did; giving yourself any applicable titles. List this timeframe just as you would any other company and position; and then bullet list out the accomplishments, showing the tangible numbers/percentages when possible. Not only will this explain the “gap” in your career, but will also showcase all that you did during this time. Showing that you didn’t sit idle, but worked, grew, and learned.

As you can see, if and when a career gap occurs, you can leverage this time to your advantage in an effort to keep propelling your career in the direction you desire. With planning and some effort, you can leap over the gap to obtain the desired position. Don’t be afraid to jump that gap. You got this!