Ask An Expert: How to Explain What You Have Been Doing Since You Lost Your Job

An AOL reader asks, "what do you tell potential employers in an interview when they ask the question, "What have you been doing all this time while laid off?"

There are many peripheral activities you may be involved in while searching for a job that can prove to a prospective employer that you have been using your time productively.

Career introspection. Let the employer know that you took some time to think introspectively about your career history and past achievements to put together your resume. If you received career transition services via an outplacement firm as part of a company severance package, let the employer know that you have been working with a coach to develop a game plan for your job search. No employer will fault you for taking time to put together a solid presentation of your skills and value proposition.

Professional development. Let the employer know if you have been spending time upgrading your professional skills. Perhaps you are brushing up on your technology skills or taking a course that will make you more marketable to a future employer. Show the hiring manager that you are using the time constructively to better yourself and sharpen your skills.

Volunteer work. Even though volunteer work is unpaid, it can often be relevant experience. Get involved in a professional organization for your job function or industry. Don't just become a member; instead take on a leadership role such as producing an association event or contributing content to their newsletter. Doing so can give you valuable experience that may make you a more interesting candidate to an employer. And when you volunteer you are networking and also meeting new people who may be aple to help you in your search.

Consulting. Perhaps during this time you have helped colleagues or friends with certain projects or offered your advice. A contractor who helped a friend find an electrician for a home improvement project or an administrative assistant that helped a former colleague with a PowerPoint presentation could certainly position these experiences as consulting, even if they weren't paid for the work.

Family. Maybe since you lost your job you have become the primary caregiver for a child or family member. Or perhaps you have used some of your down time as an opportunity to spend more time with extended family who could use your help. There's nothing wrong with telling a prospective employer that you have been using some of your time to be with your family.

Part-time work. If you took a part-time job to generate some cash flow while looking for a full-time job in your field, say so. Even if the work you were doing is unrelated to your career target, disclosing this information lets employers know you have been engaged during your transition.

Interviewing. Just because you haven't landed a job yet doesn't mean you haven't been interviewing. Let the employer know that you have been actively interviewing but haven't found the right fit yet.

Your Turn: Have a job-related question you want to ask the expert?

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