How to handle employment and career gaps in your resume

Career gaps in your resume

Life can take you in unexpected directions, and you may have employment gaps. The important thing is how to explain these to an employer in reasonable way.

Rare is the job seeker who doesn’t have at least one career gap in his or her work history. From being laid off because of a merger to taking time off for travel to caring for a newborn, there are many reasons why professionals may have employment gaps.

Still, job candidates often fear that prospective employers will view career gap negatively. Address these concerns a hiring manager might have by raising the issue appropriately in your resume and cover letter.

The following are tips on how to handle employment gaps in your resume.

Avoid the nitty-gritty details

Be truthful about why you’ve been out of work, but don’t become long-winded about your trials and tribulations. This job seeker efficiently and succinctly addressed a resume gap with this sentence: “I have served as a caretaker for my ailing mother for the last year. Fortunately, she has recovered and is once again self-sufficient. I now am ready, willing and able to re-enter the workforce.”

If you were fired or left a job on bad terms, explain the details during the employment interview, if asked.

Explain how you remained connected

It’s wise to describe how you kept up with developments in your field during your time away from your career. Did you attend any industry-specific conferences, join a professional association, or take an online or classroom-based continuing-education course? Did you work in temporary or contract positions? If so, include that information in your job-application materials. Demonstrating that you remained professionally engaged will show that you have both initiative and up-to-date skills.

Don’t overlook transferable skills

Even if you didn’t spend your time away from the office focusing on your career, you may still have gained experience that gives you an edge in the employment market.

For example, after a decade-long absence from the traditional workforce, the following candidate took a light-hearted yet savvy approach to describing her time as a stay-at-home mom. “As Domestic Engineer, I’m responsible for managing the lives of my husband and six children. My position requires organisation, diplomacy, honesty, communication, patience and self-motivation.” While written tongue-in-cheek, the applicant highlighted skills that employers find valuable.

Consider highlighting any activity you took part in during your career gaps that allowed you to hone your professional abilities. If, for example, you served as president of an association, you most likely would have enhanced your organisational, budgeting and conflict-management skills. Citing these types of “unofficial” positions shows that you haven’t been stagnant or let your skills become rusty.

Life can take you in unexpected directions, and prospective employers understand that most workers will have gaps in their careers when they have been out of work. Be proactive while addressing an employment gap. That way you’ll ease any concerns a hiring manager might have right away. By demonstrating that you’ve remained connected to your field and committed to building your skills while out of work, you’ll reduce the chance of your resume falling through the gap.

Take a look at our resume tips page for more advice on how to write a resume.

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