Explaining Gaps in Employment
We’re led to believe that in order to climb the corporate ladder and succeed in our careers, we must continue to climb non-stop.
In America, ten vacation days a year is standard, and new mothers get only 12 weeks of maternity leave (versus 28 legally mandated holidays and up to 52 weeks of maternity leave in the UK).
Even so, CNN reported that fifty-five percent of American workers didn’t even manage to use all of their vacation days last year:
“A total of 768 million days went unused in 2018, a 9% increase from 2017. Of those, 236 million were completely forfeited, which comes out to $65.5 billion in lost benefit.”
Need a break?
That’s the perfect time to pursue the MBA you’ve been putting off, they say!
But life happens:
- We get sick.
- We burn out.
- We need to care for an aging parent.
- We have kids.
- We decide to travel the world for a year.
- We pursue a personal venture that doesn’t quite go as planned.
- We need time off to simply reflect and decide what to do next.
And that’s okay. We’re human beings – not human doings.
Thankfully, many corporations are now starting to encourage increased work-life balance.
Organizations such as Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global are also raising awareness for mental health and well-being in the workplace.
Remember that progress doesn’t have to be linear, either.
Sometimes a step back into a more junior position can be exactly what you need to build long-term momentum and set you up for future success.
When you take some time out of the workforce, the best way to address a gap in employment on your resume is to simply be honest.
How to address gaps on your resume
Effective strategies we recommend include:
Listing only the years you worked in each position
If you haven't been working for under a year, you may consider including only the years you worked in each of your roles to avoid drawing attention to the months that you haven't been working.
Adding other equally valuable experiences
You can replace your period of unemployment with a volunteer position you held or professional development program you completed during that time.
Ineffective strategies you should avoid include:
Falsifying dates of employment
Avoid the temptation to drag out your dates of employment to cover up the gap.
If a recruiter calls your former employer for a reference, they may find out that you lied, significantly harming your chances and damaging your reputation.
Using a functional resume
While functional resumes (which are organized by skills instead of by work experience) can also be an option, we do not recommend using this format.
Recruiters generally expect to see a reverse-chronological listing of your roles, and this format also helps with ATS optimization.
How to provide employment gap explanations during interviews
Assume that your resume gap will come up in your interviews, and make sure that you prepare a truthful, honest explanation for what you did during your time off.
No matter what the reason for the gap, we encourage you to explain it from a positive angle.
Make sure to mention that despite having taken time from the workforce (to raise your kids, travel, recover from an illness, or reflect on the next step in your career), you are now ready and excited to jump back into the workforce.
If you need help kickstarting your job search, check out our All-In service that includes a professionally written resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile.
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