“Can you explain this employment gap in your resume?”
No matter how confident you are while addressing queries about your employment history, this is a question that catches the best of us off guard.
Is It Bad to Have a Gap in Your Resume?
Absolutely not! Most of us have employment gaps on our resumes owing to various reasons – travelling, sabbaticals, re-training, relocating or just needing a reboot are common reasons for stepping out of the workforce. Having children, looking after your health, or a loved one, can also take you out of the 9-5 grind. Maybe you have a seven-year itch to scratch, or a travel bug is hitting you hard. A flexible work-life balance is what most people want – it’s the number one thing sought for by my career coaching clients.
Employment gaps aren’t viewed in the same negative light they once were, yet finesse in explaining them goes a long way. Here are some reasons why explaining gaps in employment passively helps you make a positive effect on hiring managers –
When you proactively explain a gap on your resume, it demonstrates honesty and transparency to potential employers. Trying to hide or ignore employment gaps may raise suspicions and can lead to mistrust. Being upfront about gaps builds trust.
While drafting a cover letter, explaining gaps in employment while talking about your experience in a field lets you take control of the narrative. It allows you to shape how employers perceive those gaps rather than leaving it to their imagination.
Employment gaps can occur for various personal reasons, such as family responsibilities, health issues, or career changes. Providing context helps employers understand the reasons behind the gaps.
Explaining how you used your time during the gap to acquire new skills, engage in personal development, or pursue relevant activities can turn a gap into an asset. It shows that you are proactive and committed to self-improvement.
Employers might have concerns about the impact of a gap on your ability to perform in the role. Addressing these concerns proactively in your cover letter or resume helps alleviate doubts and demonstrates your readiness to contribute.
Being prepared for explaining gaps in your resume regardless of why you had to step out of work for a period of time is crucial. The right approach can turn a career break from a hindrance to an asset in your job search.
How to Explain Career Gaps in Resume/Cover Letter
Mention the Gap
Don’t be afraid to address the elephant in the room. In both your resume and cover letter, talk about employment gaps head-on. Don’t leave recruiters and hiring managers guessing. Instead, briefly mention the gap and focus on the positive aspects of what you accomplished during that time.
Filling Gaps with Skill Development
During your employment gap, if you acquired new skills, grew your knowledge, or pursued personal development, don’t hesitate to showcase these achievements. This not only demonstrates your commitment to self-improvement but also shows that you used your time effectively. If you genuinely picked up new skills (maybe a new language) or grew your knowledge and experience, let them know – but don’t lie or exaggerate. Most recruiters will pick up pretty quickly that your two months partying and lying on a beach in South East Asia was not a journey of self-discovery and inner growth.
If your employment gap allowed you the opportunity to engage in skill development or further education, emphasise this on your resume. Online courses from platforms like Coursera, edX, or Udemy, along with personal projects relevant to the skills you acquired, demonstrate your commitment to self-improvement and can enhance your qualifications.
Optimism Sells on Your Cover Letter
Make sure to present your employment gap optimistically on both your resume and cover letter. Show that you are proactive and confident in your choices. Showing an employer that you are proactive enough to prioritise your time to refocusing / retraining / up-skilling etc. demonstrates a strength of character and leadership. Employers value individuals who can turn a career break into a life-enhancing experience. Making employment gaps appear deliberate shows confidence, bravery and self-direction – three highly sought after traits.
Think through your phrasing and make it as optimistic and powerful as possible. Make the time out sound like your idea, or at least like something you used to your advantage. There’s a huge difference between the person who grows and develops more skills away from the workforce and the person who languishes in self-defeat. If the career break was obviously not your decision, showing that you made it into a positive life-enhancing event demonstrates admirable character traits that will appeal to an employer.
The key here to sounding authentic is to not just talk about the process, but the outcome. If you talk about refocusing, what did you refocus on, if you discuss up-skilling, what was the result?
Employment gaps are not the career roadblocks they once were. By addressing them proactively and positively on your resume and cover letters, you can turn them into assets rather than liabilities. With the right presentation, your employment gaps can become a testament to your character, growth, and dedication to self-improvement.
Focus on building skills during any break in your career.
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