5 ways to answer career gap questions for H4 EAD applicants

If you are on H4 visa, you must be excited to go back to work after obtaining you EAD. However, when looking for jobs, you may be a bit nervous about addressing a career gap question. Don’t worry you have ways to deal with it.

First, the most common issue to address is your own fear about aswering the gap. Many people are so focussed on the gap that they make it front and centre of their conversation, there by ignoring the conversations about their skill set.So get your focus off of the gap, because it’s not a unique problem to you and each year lots of people overcome it. It’s just one aspect of your other qualifications for the job. Remember, hiring good people is a hard and time consuming process. So, if you had good background and performed well at the interview, gap is not going to be an issue. So, focus on those aspects and don’t fret too much over the career breaks. If it helps, consider creating a skill based resume instead of a time line based resume.

Besides that, how do you convert your perceived liability into a strength? Well, you have some options. Before looking at those, imagine for a second when a recruiter asks about your career break, instead of saying

“Hmm, I wasn’t able to work because I was on a dependent visa and couldn’t do much about it”

say something like

“The gap is because of visa issues. However, after EAD I have been preparing myself to get back to work. I have a blog and actively write about the latest on Javascript. I also actively speak in local javascript user groups”

The second answer is likely to catch attention of the hiring manager.

And It need not always have to be a blog, be creative and prepare to steer the conversation away from the career gap towards your skills and strengths. Here are some options to build a brand for yourself,

1) Write a blog

Start a blog in the area you are looking to work. Fill the blog with 5-10 detailed blog posts. You don’t have to create a website, simple wordpress.com and blogger.com posts are sufficient. Writing on linkedin is even better because of the credibility it adds to your profile. Or you could seek out and write a guest post for a popular blog. Blog owners always look for good guest contributors. And you can write about general introductions, how to posts, comparison etc. For example if you are shooting for a web developer position, you could write posts like

  • What is the state of web development?

  • How to create a simple hello world page in angular.js?

  • What are the advantages of react.js over other similar frameworks?

You get the idea.

2) Presentation

You could take the blog one step further, convert that into a presentation. There are lot’s of interest based groups out there who are looking for a speaker. Find a local group on sites like meetup.com and volunteer to do a presentation. For example, there are local java groups, business analyst groups etc, where you can present on something simple and interesting. You don’t have to be an expert, you might become one in the process of preparing for the presentation. You can present on basic introductions to new techniques, tools, process etc. For example, one of the recent hire in our team did a presentation on how to do a “hello world” app in ios, android and windows platforms. It was an interesting choice, because instead of doing a deeper presentation, she took a basic concept and spread it across platforms and talked about the similarities and differences. And that presentation lead to a conversation with the hiring manager, which eventually led her to a job. That’s another side affect of attending the interest groups. You get to build a network. And you can even start by attending the group meetings to make yourself comfortable before doing a presentation.

3) Youtube

If you are presenting in a local group, make sure someone makes a vide and you can post that on youtube. Or You can create short tutorials on youtube on the topic of your interests. And link them to your blog!

4) Certifications

Certifications are another good way to show that you have invested in your career. Explore the popular ones in your area of interest and get yourself certified. But don’t spend a fortune on fancy certifications. If you are in the software industry, you could consider basic scrum certifications in addition to a domain specific certification as scrum is slowly becoming the de facto way of building software. While good certifications are an effective tool for learning, not all people are fan of certifications. Hence, it’s more effective if you can combine certifications with one ore more of the above items. Moreover, if you are preparing for a certification, you would fetch you more ideas for blog posts and presentations.

5) Local conferences

This option is similar to the presentations, but taking it higher. If you find conferences, check if you can get a speaking slot. Most likely, that’s going to be difficult. But, conferences typically look for volunteers. See if you can land any interesting roles like organizer of a session or a workshop or something like that. Atleast, just by volunteering you can build your network and also add talking points to your resume.

The options presented here are some examples of building your personal brand irrespective of your career gaps. So, you can certainly take advantage of these techniques to overcome any doubts you or the recuiter has in your ability to perform the job. Good luck and happy hunting!

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