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Applying for a new job can be an exciting (and stressful) process. Since it’s going to be your job to sell yourself to a potential employer, you will want to make sure everything on your resume is in tip-top shape. So how do you explain the gaping holes?
One common issue many come across when editing or creating a resume for the first time are employment gaps. These gaps could be as little as six months, or if you are a stay at home mom looking to re-enter the workforce, this gap could be as big as 15 years+. You are not alone!
Regardless of the length, an unexplained gap will never look good in the employer’s eye (were you in jail? were you a hermit? were you not employable?); however, if you strategize the right way, your gap now can become a positive.
What did you actually do…?
Think about what you did during this gap. I doubt you just sat there, twiddling your thumbs. Did you volunteer at a local hospital, or did you sit on the couch catching up on Netflix movies? If you weren’t productive, this can be a tough sell; however, if you were actively out in the community volunteering or doing something useful, be sure to list this. You don’t always have to list paying jobs because many employers will respect volunteer experience or anything productive as well.
Be creative with personal breaks
Sometimes, people have to take breaks to take care of an elderly parent or take care of themselves because of an illness. This is okay, and employers understand this. If you’re willing to be open about this situation, consider listing it as if it were a job. For example, if you were caring for an elderly parent for three years, you could list “2012-2015 Primary Home Care Provider for a Relative.” Just like a job, sell your strengths during this time. What did you do? How did you tackle problems? Try to tie this into the job you’re pursuing.
Boast about credentials
If you have been out of the industry for a while, show your perspective employer how you have been keeping up to date. This could include receiving new certifications, reading industry newsletters or taking a class. If an employer sees a large gap, they may question your knowledge, especially if it’s in an industry that seems to change every other month. By highlighting your skills and up-to-date knowledge in the skills section, this could offset the gap. If you haven’t done so already, consider polishing your skills now so you can be prepared for the interview the day it comes. You can opt to further your education as well with an online course so you’re better equipped for the job. If you’re in engineering, leveraging an electrical engineering technology degree can really help boost your credentials to potential employers.
Don’t forget freelance work
Careers that allow freelance work, such as graphic designers, writing, and programming, can be a great way to fill in those gaps. If you have done any sort of freelancing work, be sure to list this as if it were a job. If you haven’t, consider finding a few jobs on Craigslist or a freelance work board. Even if it was a simple job, it can make your gaps look a lot smaller than what it really is.
Consider listing years instead of months
If you have been in the workforce for more than 10 years or so, you may want to consider listing the years you worked, rather than the month and the year you started and ended. This strategy could work well if your gap is less than a year because when a manager skims your resume, they won’t notice any gaps. This is a great way to conceal the gaps within a span of two calendar years.
As the saying goes: “Honesty is the best policy.” Keep in mind that it’s okay to list these gaps, and you’re not the only one in the workforce looking for a job with months, if not years between a job. When hiring managers look at your resume with gaps, it shows them you’re committed to the future and are willing to continue your career. If you make it to the interview stage, be honest here as well. A quick search online will show you nothing annoys hiring managers more than potential hires fumbling with explaining their gaps.
Remember you’re not the only one in the workforce looking for a job with a gap on your resume. As long as you’re honest and sell your gap well, there’s no reason to be ashamed of it.
This is a guest post written by Stephanie Lynch. She is the co-founder of How Much Is It? – a cost-helping database dedicated to consumers who want to find out what unknown items/services cost.