We often don't mean for them to happen, but there they are – glaring gaps of time on a resume. These often come to light when you are preparing your resume for new career opportunities or when asked by an interviewer about a time span where you have no paid work listed on your resume. In those case, what's a jobseeker to do?
Whether your gap is the result of downsizing, moving, personal situations, or things that were just out of your control, read on to explore ways to conquer those gaps and get the great new job you want.
What is a Gap in Employment?
A gap in employment is a period of months, or sometimes years, when a jobseeker was not working.
While some gaps in employment may have been within your control, others are entirely at the whim of others or the universe. These are the two types of gaps in employment: voluntary and involuntary.
Regardless of the reason for your employment gap don't fret. If you learn to explain the gap, it shouldn't have any impact on your career.
Addressing Shorter Gaps in Employment: 6 Months or Less
Shorter gaps in employment can be easier to address. After all, although you did spend some time outside of the workforce, a few months can pass within the blink of an eye. It's now become common practice for both women and men to take some significant time off after a new child is added to a family. Caring for ailing elderly parents is commonplace in the sandwich generation. And moving, especially long distances, takes a lot of time and effort. Are you sure you only needed six months off?
These small gaps in employment can easily be addressed as a short statement in a cover letter, an italicized line in your resume, or a quick comment during an interview. Consider the following.
- Addressing an employment gap in a cover letter:
"I've had the opportunity over the past four months to help my parents relocate to a nearby assisted-living community to ensure their end-of-life comfort. Having taken care of those most important to me, I am now ready to once again embrace my career in the financial sector of the real estate industry."
- Addressing an employment gap in a resume:
"June 2017-December 2017: Time spent relocating my family from Panama City, Florida, to San Antonio, Texas, in support of my partner's Air Force career."
- Addressing an employment gap in a conversation:
"I really enjoyed getting to spend time with my adopted daughter as we incorporated her into our family. Now that she's settled in and is comfortable with our care provider, I'm ready to resume my career in recruiting."
Addressing Longer Gaps in Employments: 6 Months or Longer
Some gaps — specifically those longer in time or those which occurred thanks to a sensitive situation — can be too difficult to cover with brief written statements or one-off comments. In those situations, it's best to address the elephant in the room upfront with a direct conversation or longer note.
Shorter gaps in employment can be easier to address. After all, although you did spend some time outside of the workforce, a few months can pass within the blink of an eye.
That doesn't mean that you have to share every sordid detail or gripe with your hiring manager or recruiter. Be honest, of course, but don't dwell on the negative. Here are a few suggested conversation starters to discuss those longer gaps:
- For an employment gap due to a health problem:
"I experienced some unexpected health issues and needed to spend all of my time and resources addressing them so that I could ensure my ability to be around for my family and flourish in my career in the future."
- For an employment gap due to a legal problem:
"I experienced an unexpected legal issue and needed to ensure that I brought it to a suitable close before getting back to life as usual."
- For an employment gap due to raising children:
"I chose to spend as much time as possible with my children while they were young because I knew I would be able to still be effective in my career when they grew older and I was again ready for the corporate world."
Finally, another great thing to remember when addressing longer gaps in employment is that you probably didn't sit on your bum and do nothing while not working for pay. No doubt, you spent some time volunteering in your community, being involved in groups, participating in activities with your children, and so on.
Even if your time off was to address a health issue, you might have spent time online pursuing continuing education or reading up on the latest trends while undergoing treatments. Don't ever hesitate to parlay that experience into positives as you address gaps in employment.