I have asked this question a lot in various forums and I got nice feedback, overall, the suggestion is to explain to employers my reason for the gap and for entry positions that is enough. The reason being (I wouldn't say it like this to them):

I have a disability which effected my speech and walking. It made me feel bad about myself. Even though logically I understand that many people have the same problem (or even worst) and are working and found success, this "problem" made be feel bad inside, and so, after university (where I studied a cs course) I took some time to work on my inner problems. This work wasn't clinical but personal.

At the same time, I have been keeping up with programming. I really like js, so I have been up to date with that and have personal experience with all the frameworks. Granted, through out the 5 years there have been dry spells, meaning I wouldn't call myself a hard core programmer (and I do need to apply for entry jobs) - but I truly love the field.

But just applying without some experience doesn't seem right - am I wrong?

The 5 year gap really scares me, to the point where even if no-one would hire me, I wouldn't blame them.

I thought, in order to improve my chances, I should take a bit of time to work on the following:

  • Start blogging - writing web tutorials on the technologies that I want to work with (JS based)
  • Create three peaces for my portfolio - they are kind of done, but need reconstruction
  • Volunteer for 1-2 sites - for some charity that I might like
  • contribute to open source - I have no idea how this is done (even though I use git to version control my projects)

I should have done all these throughout the 5 years, but ...

Do you think I should work on the above before looking for work, or should I just look for work in hope that the portfolio would make them look beyond the gap

Explaining why this question is not a dublicate: I don't think this is a duplicate. Whilst they both ask how to overcome gap years on a resume, I am asking whether I should undertake the plan I specified bellow. So, whether I should just apply or whether I should do what I stated in the bullet points

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    Don't ingnore either side of this until you are employed. Continue to build your portfolio as you look for work. You might get lucky and find a job quickly with your present skill set. – Myles Jul 20 '15 at 18:05
  • tbh, I think you are overestimating the significance of that gap. while some companies will take it into consideration, tehre are plenty, that just require skill – Zeks Jul 20 '15 at 18:29
  • Related: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/12291/… – PM 77-1 Jul 20 '15 at 22:16
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    The more you have to substantiate your "I have been keeping up with programming" the better. – PM 77-1 Jul 20 '15 at 22:19

TL;DR Here are the principles you should understand:

  1. 5 years is large hurdle to jump, but it can be done.

  2. Blog posts, Open source, and donated time are all great, but they take time to build your reputation, and you need a job right now.

  3. Get your skills current. Pick a project and force yourself to work on it as though it was your job. Pay yourself if "future dollars" if you have to.

  4. A strong resume from before your gap will help.

  5. Polish your interviewing skills. There's no better way to practice than to line up some interviews and see what they're like. Practice your answers to the questions they've asked you, so you can do better in the next interview.

  6. Get your name out there EVERY. POSSIBLE. WAY. YOU. CAN. Personal referrals are the best way -- they'll get you past the first few gatekeepers.

I did just that - got back into software development after a failed attempt to change careers. I was out of development for exactly 5 years. I had only three interviews in six weeks (not great). I never got any feedback from places that decided to pass on me, so I can't guess why I didn't impress them. But all three of the interviews I had told me they were concerned that in the 5 years since I was gone, the skill sets had advanced and they were worried I wouldn't be up to par. So, yes, a 5 year absence makes it hard for you.

Of the three interviews I had, one was from a job board, and two were from personal referrals - I knew people at the company, and they offered to walk my resume into the right offices.

For the time I was looking for work, I spent my days working on a couple of little side projects to get my head back into software development. I picked up some current HTML/CSS knowledge, and ported and old game to C#/.NET I had written for my kids in C years back. That gave me some additional confidence that I knew what I was talking about.

Armed with that, my interview at the company from the job board went extremely well, and they offered me a job the next day. It didn't feel right, so I passed on it. (Crazy, I know. But I've come to trust those gut feelings).

One of my referral interviews went poorly. I wasn't prepared for what they needed. I recognized that I was weak, so it wasn't too disappointing. This referral was only a casual acquaintance, anyway. He didn't really know what I had done in the past, only that I was programmer looking for work.

At the place where my referral was strongest (we had worked together in the past, and he was family), I still had to impress in the interview, and I think I did. They were still concerned about my time away from the industry, and went with another candidate. Disappointed? Yes. But their #1 pick didn't work out, and I was #2, so I eventually got the job.

You can do it. It will take hustle in several ways, but it can be done.

Good luck!

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