Please help with Career advice

Hi Huttle,

I am a Mechanical Engineering major with 4.5 years experience in software development and IT.
I have also completed my MSE in mechanical engineering from University of Michigan Ann Arbor.
I have tried for Product Development roles in mechanical engineering but could land only a IT support role for 2.5 years.I have tried to shift to Product role but the assignment lasted only 6 months until January 2015 where I quit as it wasn't a good fit  and was changed considerably than what I was interviewed for.Since January 2015 I have been giving interviews but couldn't convert them into offers. I had to change my visa status and keep looking for opportunities.
Lot of companies have asked me what did I ship despite me being a contractor with limited scope and data access in a big organization.

How do I explain my resume gaps in between job search?
How to keep abreast of ones field and keep practicing in between jobs to keep uptodate on skills?

Thank You

I'll second Chris' advice and chime in with some advice of my own.  Admittedly I'm still not 100% sure what your current employment situation is from your post, but I'm going to assume you've been working in IT support for the last 2.5 years off and on since you haven't found the right role that you really want.

I'll give you the same analogy I gave someone previously - you're on the opposite side of the door and you're trying to get inside and it looks you are trying to break down the door.  Now you might be able to get in, but if you do you are going to cause a lot of collateral damage.  And you better hope the person on the other side of the door doesn’t have a gun.  You know what’s a better approach?  Have someone on the other side of the door open it for you.

If you're not finding the right opportunities to interview for, something in your process is broken.  How are you using your past connections / resources to get you interviews?  Are you working through your school career center to do things like review your resume, brush up on your interview skills, and search for job postings?  You may not have the same full access they would provide for current students, but they wouldn't shut you out either.  Perhaps you can work on a side project with a past professor that more aligns with what you ultimately want to do long-term.  Pro bono of course.  

I remember when I was at Deloitte and I had an SAP Analyst come up to me and basically tell me they didn't want to do SAP anymore, they wanted to get things like digital brand marketing or mobility solutions.  We had a separate area of the consulting group where that was available and I had a connection with a Partner who had created a practice from scratch that was right where this SAP Analyst wanted to be.  But this Partner didn't know this SAP Analyst personally.  He wanted to see commitment and capability (a fair request).  

So I challenged this SAP Analyst with the following: go work on projects for this Partner on the side during your own time - evenings / weekends / whatever it takes.  Because if you show this Partner you have what it takes and he has an opening pop up, he'll take you.  It might be a few weeks, a few months, or even a couple of years and during that time your life is going to suck (we are talking an extra 15 - 20 hours a week on top of his regular SAP consulting duties), but it will all be worth it when the call comes.  I made the connection and vouched for this SAP Analyst (i.e. I "opened" the door for him) and I told him the rest is up to you.  

What wound up happening is that this guy made such a positive impression that not only did the Partner transfer this SAP Analyst into his practice, they sponsored his MBA as part of the inaugural Cornell Tech MBA cohort in NYC.  In a nutshell, this is what you need to do - find that person that is going to open the door for you and make your personal investment in a new role.

My honest feedback is to take a hard look at your resume and see what you're putting out there. Also if you do get in touch with a hiring manager, but they turn you down, make sure to ask for any feedback they have on your interview. You might be able to get a piece of advice that could help you for the next job.

Last thing, and I don't want this to sound mean, but make sure to proofread everything you're putting out there. I know this is a casual setting, but your post has some errors in it that makes me think you might have errors in some of your emails or resumes that you send out.

Jason please accept my apologies as I put out a hasty post(I was tending to my infant daughter). I mean no disrespect.This is the first time I am posting in a forum and I hope to get better at it.I haven't written a big post or essay since my GRE/GMAT :) other than technical documentation.
Thank you for your feedback.
Only one hiring manager told he liked me but would recommend me to other hiring managers for better fit. Can I anonymously share my resume here?

Feel free to share your resume in a new post under the Hack My Resume topic. Also, be sure to post it in stealth mode and remove your name from your resume to keep it really anonymous. 

Gaps in your employment will happen. The challenge comes down to how you turn those gaps into winning moments. I'd focus on projects you were able to accomplish during your time between jobs. Or, if you didn't work on side projects, perhaps focus on trips or adventures you might have taken and talk about what you learned during those experiences.

What most hiring managers are looking for is whether you were in between jobs and then did nothing or were you busy. As long as you can show you were busy and you grew in some way that further proves you're the right person for the job then you should be okay. 

How to keep abreast of ones field and keep practicing in between jobs to keep uptodate on skills?

Since ME isn't as easy to pick up side projects as a computer engineer, perhaps a way to continue to provide value is by attempting to become a thought leader in your space. Writing medium posts that talk about your experience, your product management process, or your commentary on the changes of your industry could allow you to get exposure and give you a platform to point your interviewers to if they're curious to know your thought process or work ethic.