Most of us will take time off, for one reason or another, from working. You may choose to take a break from work to study, travel, start a family or renovate your house. Sometimes it’s an unplanned event such as a redundancy or illness and it could take some time to land your next job. Whatever the circumstance, it’s often tricky to explain these employment gaps both on your resume and in the interview.
Just be honest
It’s always best to be honest. Don’t try to fudge the dates on your resume because eventually you’ll get caught out. If you’ve left employment to start a family, simply say that on your resume. Don’t forget to make sure that the dates on your resume are the same as the dates listed on you LinkedIn profile as this will be one of the first things employers and recruiters will check. At the interview you’ll need to be very clear on where you worked and when, so there’s no point fabricating a story that can’t be backed up by a reference, such as your previous employer. Taking a career break to develop new skills, explore opportunities and generally just ‘experience and enjoy life’ aren’t negatives on your resume. Life is all about experiencing, taking risks, learning and developing, so taking time out to do something different is a good thing.
Family commitments (started a family) – Nov 2012 to Jun 2013
Certificate IV in Management (full-time study) – Feb 2012 to Dec 2012
Overseas travel (Spain, Portugal, UK) – Apr 2013 to Oct 2013
So you’ve moved around a bit. Don’t worry. Most of us have (especially Gen Y who are notorious for it). If we’re not inspired, we keep moving around until we find it and with the rapidly changing tech and business environment, it is no shock that young people in particular find themselves switching jobs often after just months. A two-year stay at a company has come to seem like a lengthy tenure. Be open about why you left each job. One acceptable reason for leaving could be that you were exploring different jobs to see what you really wanted to do. If you were made redundant, make sure you show this on your resume as this is something out of your control and all too common in this economy.
Explaining illness or unemployment
Unfortunately, illness, injury or unemployment can affect us at some stage during our career so there may be times when you need to take an extended period off work to recover or find a new job. This could mean weeks, months (or even years) off work. In these instances, I always encourage my clients to see the brighter side of the situation. Rather than feeling like you’ve taken steps backward and damaged your career, I prefer to see it as though you’ve spent your time off recharging the batteries and refocusing on new goals. Employers love nothing more than a candidate who is motivated and enthusiastic. If you’re able, extended periods off work are a great opportunity to study online or get some practical experience through volunteer work. Keep busy with building your skills and networks. You may feel uncomfortable talking about an illness but you’ll be surprised just how supportive people can be. Illness is nothing to be ashamed of and just part of life.
Career break (part-time study/volunteer work) – Feb 2013 to June 2013
Career break (recovery) – Aug 2011 to Dec 2011**
** Note: you may or may not be asked to go into more detail at the interview about this **
Emphasize the positives
Finally, remember to focus on the positive aspects of your career break. Talk about the constructive activities you were involved with during your break, not forgetting any consulting, freelance or volunteer work. Be enthusiastic in your application and interview, making a strong case for why the job is exciting for you and why you would be an excellent fit.