How to explain gaps in employment

Many professionals will at some point want or need to take a career break. Often, people’s career break reasons include spending time raising children or caring for an older family member, but sometimes it’s to take a sabbatical and travel, go back to university and re- or upskill, or to pursue a passion project after burnout.

But when it comes to returning to full-time or permanent employment, many start to get nervous about how the gap will look on their resume and fear that it will prevent them from getting hired. This fear leads some people to try to cover up their gap. In the changing world of work, gaps and career changes are becoming more common – the only red flag for an employer is the discovery that a prospective employee has tried to cover up their employment break.

Be proactive and intentional about your gap in employment

If you’re in the position of being able to plan your employment gap, make sure that you have a clear understanding of why you are taking time away from full employment and what you hope to achieve.

Some common examples include:

  • I want to spend quality time with my children while they are young
  • I want to broaden my horizons and evaluate my life goals by travelling
  • I want to acquire a specialist skill
  • I want to work on my passion project

How do I explain my employment break?

In the age of the personal brand, it’s entirely possible to own your personal narrative and integrate your employment gap into your career. You just need to be specific about why you took time out and what benefits the time brought. Here are some employment gap explanation examples:

After caregiver’s leave

“I spent two years caring for an ill relative, and in that time, I needed strong attention to detail while taking care of their medication, communication skills for when communicating with their various doctors, and empathy for the patient.”

After a year of travelling

“I went from school to uni to employment and reached a 10-year milestone when I realised I was on auto-pilot. I needed to broaden my horizons and make choices that were in line with my values. While travelling I was able to take some time to reflect on my priorities, goals and interests and have returned with greater wellbeing and a more holistic understanding of myself and my career.”

After a wellness break

“I found that I was experiencing burnout because I wasn’t working in the right career, so I took time out to return to studying to learn some new skills that I’m passionate about and that I’m now hoping to bring to this organisation.”

After being made redundant

“I used my redundancy payout from my last role to start a small business and I gained hands-on skills in social media marketing for small businesses.”

If your employment break wasn’t something you chose look for the positives and explain to a prospective employer why it is that you’re now ready to return to work.

What if my employment gap was a long one?

There are many good reasons for gaps in employment – sometimes it’s just part of life. By emphasising your personal qualities and skills (especially soft skills if your technical skills are a little out of date), you can present yourself as a professional who’s up to the task.

If you’re still feeling a bit nervous, it’s a good idea to speak to a specialist recruiter, who will be able to help you position yourself in the market, explain what skills employers are looking for, and sell your skills to potential employers. They can also help you craft your CV and personal statement to be most appealing while still being honest about the gap in your employment history.

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