How to Address Gaps in Your Résumé

How to Advance Your Career

Mind the Gap

Careers are like puzzles: If you show up with a piece of yours missing, potential employers are going to wonder where it went. But sometimes, missing pieces are simply unavoidable.

"Whether you took time off to care for a child or aging parent, or you were laid off and are having a hard time finding another job, gaps in a résumé happen," author Stephanie Vozza writes in an article for Fast Company. "Sharing them with a potential employer, however, can feel awkward. How do you put a positive spin on a one-, four- or even 12-month period of time when you weren't working?"

Although you might be tempted to engineer a clever story to explain the gaps in your résumé, Vozza says the best approach is honesty.

"Being transparent about why you've experienced job loss can go a long way," she advises, explaining that today's employers are just as interested in knowing how you've failed as they are in hearing how you've succeeded.

"We often end up learning more during our greatest challenges or what might, at the time, seem like our greatest disappointments. There are likely new perspectives and stronger skills you can now bring to this position as a result of your past experiences," Kathleen Pai, vice president of human resources for HR software provider Ultimate Software, tells Vozza, who says you should include an explanation in your résumé so employers don't have to wonder.

Finally -- and here's where the spin comes in -- make sure you cast the gap in a positive light by emphasizing what you learned during your time away from the workforce. "What's important is that you show that it was a learning experience," Vozza says. "If you used any of the time during the employment gap to volunteer, attend trainings, learn new skills or conduct career research, talk about that." 

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