By Lynne Gowers on 14th April 2014

How to handle a gap in your work history

The idea that we leave full time education and then spend 45-50 years in uninterrupted gainful employment is dead. Cultural, economic and sociological changes over the last five decades have altered for ever what is achievable – or even desirable – throughout our working lives.

How to handle a gap in your work history

You may, then, have periods when you don’t work. To minimise the impact of these gaps on future job hunting, talk up their positive aspects and how they make you a better candidate. Some examples:

You quit your job to care for a relative or partner

Sacrificing your career and income to become a carer shows compassion. No potential employer will hold this against you, though, they may need assuring that you are fully ready to re-enter the world of work and give 100% to your next role.

You went travelling

Foreign travel hones your organisational, budgeting, negotiation and social skills, while exposing you to other cultures and languages. These are valuable commodities for employers, so long as you convince them that the wanderlust is out of your system and that you’re serious about getting back to work.

You just fancied a break

Even this can be presented in a positive light if you show that you used the time productively. ‘Project managing the sympathetic refurb of my 16th century cottage’, for example, goes down better than ‘honing my golf skills’ or ‘topping up my tan on the Cote d’Azur.’

You were made redundant

Redundancy can be a time to take stock, reflect on your career to date and plot your next move. For some, this means more of the same – a new job similar to the last. For others, it can trigger the decision to start something completely new. A redundancy-enforced gap in your work history is usually followed by a new zeal, sharper focus and refreshed commitment to whatever you do next.

You were fired and your name is mud

On your CV, highlight your achievements in the role and move on to what relevant activities you have been engaged in since. Writing, blogging or studying will give you something positive to focus on. If asked to enlarge on this episode in an interview, talk about what you learned from the experience and how it has improved you as a person.

You went to prison / rehab

If you were imprisoned or otherwise incarcerated, give dates and a very brief description of why. Again, focus on what you did to prepare yourself for work. Employers will want to see that you’re putting the past behind you and that you’re serious about your future.

If your career gaps are short, you can bury them in your CV by inserting only the years in which you joined and left your employers. Another option is to prepare a CV that focuses more on your personal skills, expertise and career vision than on a detailed timeline of your employment to date.

One thing you should never do on your CV or at an interview is lie about how long you were employed for or why you left a job. Employers check these details and if they discover an untruth, you may be about to embark on another gap in your work history.

Written by Lynne Gowers
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