PORTLAND -- Sometimes life just gets in the way of work, but a resume gap doesn't have to get in the way of getting a new job.

Like many people, Jessica Green of Portland took some time off to raise her daughter and found herself needing to rejoin the workforce. But she said she knows the world of hiring is very different today.

I've been out of the workforce for four years, she said.

Feeling qualified is one of the scariest things, because you re so removed from that world when you re in the world of kids.

Career counselor Jill Sled said feeling good about yourself is very important, and plays into an employer s impression of you.

It's a good idea to take stock of yourself, she said. But, she added, don't bring up a resume gap unless the employer does.

You want to have a brief answer prepared, so when they ask you about that, you're ready to respond to that question, Sled said. Do not dwell on it; instead try to bring the focus back to what you can do for the company.

The toughest gap to explain may be that you've been fired, said July Clark, founder of HR Answers.

If you were fired, then you better have learned a lesson from that, she said. She suggested not attempting to camouflage your resume, but instead being honest and considering it a lesson learned.

It's better to put the dates, the specific dates, and then offer a reasonable explanation about the gaps, she said.

But again, only if asked. And when it comes to a health-related gap, that's a very different story.

The employer legally can't ask about your health status, said Clark. They can only ask whether or not you can perform the functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations. If you feel pressured to answer, Clark said to politely decline, stating that it's a personal matter.

As for Jessica Green, she said she's not letting her four-year gap keep her from finding the job she wants and needs.

You just have to put yourself out there. Be vulnerable, she said.

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