An employment gap on your resume shouldn’t prevent you from applying for your ideal job or hinder your career development. Here’s how to manage it.
Many people see an employment gap as a huge disadvantage, resulting in a lack of confidence and motivation when job searching.
By hey, life happens! The reality is that many people will be out of the workforce for a certain time. Commonly, this may be due to carer’s leave, travel, unemployment, education, illness or imprisonment.
Life events such as these don’t need to affect your employability. Don’t let an employment gap prevent you from applying for your ideal job or hinder your career development. In fact, I’m going to show you how it can be turned into an advantage!
When it comes down to it, how you present the information on your resume is really the most important part.
This post is about how to explain an employment gap on your resume.
Don’t lie on your resume. Just don’t do it.
Ok, let’s get one thing straight – giving false information on your resume is a bad idea. Employers make employment decisions based on the information you provide to them and there is an expectation that you will represent your skills, qualifications and experience truthfully.
Giving false information on your resume is risky. Consequences may include loss of job, reputational damage (which can affect your professional credibility and ability to get another job) even legal action!
It’s common for the employer to verify the information you provide on a resume. This can be done via referee, background/security and social media checks.
The employer will respect you for telling the truth about your employment gap and you will save yourself a lot of anxiety caused by fearing the day that your misrepresentation is uncovered….
Time out of the workforce is great for professional development (and your resume)
If you must be out of the workforce for an extended time frame, don’t use it as an excuse to stop your professional development!
There are so many things you can do while on an employment break that will enhance your career or employability and look fantastic on your resume 😉
Many of the examples below can be done flexibly to fit around carer’s arrangements or travel:
- short online courses like MOOCs (many Australian universities have caught up to their American counterparts and now offer FREE short courses to everyone!), UDEMY, Coursea, SkillsShare etc.
- postgraduate study such as a Graduate Certificate
- teach English while travelling
- volunteer work
- start a part time home-based business or monetised blog
- learn a new language
- learn a new skill
- join a professional association
- nurture your professional networks and continue to attend events if possible
- refresh your job searching tools such as your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile
Change the way you present employment history information on your resume
There’s no rule that says a resume must be in reverse chronological order. It’s commonly accepted as best practice in Australia as it makes the document easier to read. However, this is more of a guideline rather than a fixed requirement (unless stated in the job advertisement).
Instead, try these tips:
- list your employment history by ‘Relevant Experience’ and ‘Other Employment History’
- define the employment period in years, not years and months i.e. 2009 – 2010, rather than September 2009 – January 2010
Ensure you are focusing the key points of your employment history on demonstrated achievements and outcomes rather than duties or tasks performed. I can’t stress how important this is!
Make your resume a skills-based resume
Rather than relying on your professional experience (or work history) in your resume to demonstrate your suitability for a job, prioritise your education and key skills instead.
For example, if you have a 2 page resume, fill the entire first page with details of your professional summary, qualifications, certifications and skills. It’s likely that you will have many of the skills listed in the job advertisement, so ensure these are highlighted at the beginning of your resume.
Changing the layout of your resume can have a significant impact on how the reader absorbs the information and what catches the employer’s eye.
Additional employability tips
Network and remain connected to your current employer
If you plan to return to your previous job after your employment break, it’s important to maintain your relationship with your manager or the organisation. This ensures that you stay up-to-date on the happenings of the industry/organisation (and your manager remembers to keep you in the loop!).
You will also lessen the difficulties often experienced when transitioning back into the workforce. Your expectations and knowledge of your job will be current and you will demonstrate your willingness to return and commitment to your role.
Remaining connected to your employer may also be good for your mental health if you find yourself feeling socially isolated during your employment break.
Remain positive and stand by your employment break
Many people see an employment gap as a limitation to their competitiveness in the job market which may result in lower confidence, missed opportunities and stalled professional development.
But this doesn’t have to be the case! A positive and resolute mindset is crucial here. Having an employment break does not negate the experience, skills and qualifications you have worked so hard to develop. That this, an employment break doesn’t have to affect your employability, unless you let it.
A positive and resolute approach will also increase your confidence and will be more beneficial for your health and well-being.
The key is to focus on what you have to offer an employer and how you are going to demonstrate your effectiveness to them, if you are applying for a new job.
Your employability or career progression doesn’t need to be affected by your employment break. How you choose to approach it is up to you.
An employment gap on a resume is common – it’s something I see regularly as a career development practitioner. When managed and communicated appropriately, an employment break can even be beneficial to your career! The key is to be creative (and strategic and truthful!) in the way you represent information on your resume and remain confident by standing by your employment break.
This post was about how to explain an employment gap on your resume.
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Hi there, I'm Danielle Ward
Your go-to career development and human resource practitioner, guiding your career towards true north.