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Dealing with Gaps in Your Employment History


Breaks in employment are more common than you might guess.  Reasons someone may take a break include, caring for family members, illness, and returning to school. Other times an extended break is due to difficulty in landing a new job following a lay-off or termination.  Whatever the reason, it is important to strategically address the gaps in your resume and during a job interview.  The following are a few “dos” and “don’ts” for effectively dealing with gaps in your employment history.


Don’t Be Deceptive

Some people make the mistake of misrepresenting the truth.  Quite often, the truth eventually surfaces and then you have a bigger problem.  If you are a candidate caught in deception, your candidacy is over. If you are an employee, this can be grounds for immediate termination.  The first rule is to avoid any false statements on your resume and in your interview.


Don’t Be Defensive

In any marketing setting, it is wise to avoid being defensive. If you start to make excuses or shift blame for career moves, you are acting from a position of weakness. Rather than playing defense, take an offensive stance and present the value you offer an employer. In an interview, explain your break in plain terms and advance the conversation to demonstrate your strength.


Don’t Share Months on a Resume

In today’s job market, it is common to show years only for your dates of employment.  There are exceptions, such as some federal postings that require more precise dates. However, by showing years only, you are not immediately advertising short-term gaps.  Always show complete dates on a job application. 


Do Use Subtle Explanations on your Resume

While it is not good practice to show a reason for termination under each job.  It is alright to provide clues in some positions when you want to signal that the termination was not for cause.  For example, if you were part of a major lay-off, you could add a statement within that job description, “Aided department during lay-off and reorganization prior to leaving company.” You benefit by coupling your reason for leaving with an accomplishment.


Do Prepare Talking Points for the Interview

Be ready for the question about your employment gap.  The secret to success is to be forthright but selective. In other words, spare the details of your mother’s disability and simply say that you took a two-year hiatus to care for your seriously-ill mother. Confirm that you are able to handle the new job by adding the disposition. For example, “Now that my mother is fully-recovered, she is living independently again.”   There are cases in which the break has some negative elements, such as a firing.  Keeping it simple and stating something like, “It was not a perfect match and ultimately I was let go. However, I learned much from that set-back and it has made me a better, more committed professional.” Those are just two examples.  Draft talking points based on your unique situation.       


Do Make the Most of Your Gap during the Gap

Make the most of every day, even while on a career break.  You can fill your gap with paid, un-paid, or educational activities. Examine your financial situation, professional goal, and education to determine the best use of your time during this gap.  These are just are a few examples for your consideration: Contract work or temporary assignments, internships, entrepreneurship, volunteer positions, and professional development courses.


A gap does not have to be an obstacle in your career.  Take control of your career by filling your gap and proactively addressing your gap in your resume and your job interviews.


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