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How Do I Handle Gaps in My Employment History?

Author Frederik van Lierde • 9/1/2023

Employment gaps are not uncommon. But how can you address them effectively during a job search? This article delves into why these gaps occur and how to present them in a positive light.
How Do I Handle Gaps in My Employment History?

Understanding the Reasons Behind Employment Gaps

Life is Unpredictable.
At times, life throws curveballs that require our undivided attention. It could be due to health issues, family emergencies, or personal reasons. These are legitimate reasons for taking a break from work. It's essential to remember that everyone, at some point in their career, might need to prioritize personal life over professional commitments.

Economic Factors Play a Role.
Economic downturns, company bankruptcies, or industry-wide layoffs can lead to involuntary employment gaps. Such breaks are beyond an individual's control. When entire sectors face challenges, many professionals find themselves out of work, searching for their next opportunity.

Pursuing Personal Growth and Development.
Some individuals choose to take a break to pursue further education, travel, or even start a business. These experiences, although not traditional employment, can offer valuable skills and insights that can be beneficial in future roles.

Addressing Employment Gaps in Your Resume

Be Honest and Straightforward.
Honesty is the best policy. If there's a gap in your employment history, don't try to hide it or manipulate dates to make it seem shorter. Instead, be prepared to explain the reason for the gap succinctly and confidently. Most employers will appreciate your transparency.

Highlight Skills and Experiences Gained.
Even if you weren't in a traditional job, it's likely you gained valuable skills during your break. Did you do freelance work? Volunteer? Take a course? Travel? All these experiences can be framed in a way that showcases your adaptability, resilience, or other valuable skills.

Use a Functional Resume.
If you have multiple gaps or a very long gap, consider using a functional resume format. This type of resume focuses more on your skills and experiences rather than chronological work history. It can help draw attention to what you can do, rather than when you did it.

Discussing Employment Gaps in Interviews

Prepare Your Narrative.
Before heading into an interview, prepare a brief explanation for your employment gap. Keep it positive and focus on what you learned or how you grew during that time. Practice your response so you can deliver it confidently.

Show Enthusiasm for the Role.
While it's essential to address the gap, don't dwell on it. Shift the conversation towards your eagerness to return to work and your excitement about the potential role. Highlight how your unique experiences during the gap have prepared you for this new opportunity.

Ask for Feedback.
If you sense hesitation from the interviewer about your employment gap, ask for feedback. This shows that you're open to criticism and eager to address any concerns they might have. It also gives you a chance to further clarify or provide additional context.

Conclusion

Employment gaps, whether voluntary or involuntary, are a part of many professionals' career journeys. The key is to approach them with honesty, confidence, and a focus on the skills and experiences gained. By preparing your narrative and framing your experiences positively, you can turn potential weaknesses into strengths and show potential employers that you're more than ready for your next professional challenge.