No matter how striking your career progression has been or how many awards you have won, the age old saying is true: “You’re only as good as your last sale.” Even if you have all the qualifications and skills required for a job, gaps in your resume could be worrisome. Very few people have a seamless professional history. Situations like a layoff, taking care of a sick family member or going on a maternity leave are some of the reasons that propel us to take a hiatus in our careers. But an absence from the business world for a short while is enough to make a lot of employers reasonably worried.
So how do you put their worries to rest? And how do you explain your time off in your resume? Well… To start with, you don’t have to fret about the missing years in your resume. Remember, it happened for a reason. All you have to do is just be prepared and address the issue in a smarter way.
Here are a few tips to explain the bouts of unemployment, no matter how long, with great aplomb.
Be honest and be prepared:
Hiring managers can always sniff phony excuses! While there are means to “disguise” employment gaps, hiding those periods of unemployment deceitfully is not such a great idea. In today’s job market, layoffs are pretty common and unemployment gaps have lost the stigma that they once had. So don’t be apologetic for your time off! Only you can set the tone for how this gap can be perceived. It’s almost certain that you will be asked about them in some form or the other. So be prepared with short and relevant responses so that you are not caught off guard.
Talk about the opportunities gained:
Whatever be the reason for your gap – a sabbatical or a lay-off, be honest and let the hiring manager know that you took a conscious decision to take an extended break, as you wanted to cautiously scan all opportunities before making your next career change. This will reflect you as a career conscious person and will reiterate your commitment towards the job at hand. Also talk about the things you did in the interim and put a positive spin to them. If you consulted, volunteered or travelled, speak up! Believe it or not, it could be exceptionally value-adding to you as an individual. Take for instance, if you apply for a job that needs you to travel to a foreign country which you’ve previously visited, you can share your experiences in dealing with the local people there. This will not only demonstrate your knowledge for the country’s culture but will also prove that you can do the job more effectively.
If you have been struggling to find work and feel that the gaps in your employment history are to be blamed then try and get proactive! You don’t have to dwell on your employment gap but rather be active and engage yourself in professional development. Use your time off to upgrade your skills and knowledge and if needed get some professional mentoring. This will tell employer that you’ve utilized your time off effectively and managed to keep your skills fresh.
Don’t get defensive or act like a victim when you talk about your extended unemployment. Steer clear of phrases like “no one wanted me” or nobody was hiring” and focus only on your positive attributes. When the topic comes up, don’t dwell on it for long. Get past it swiftly with statements like, “There have been opportunities, but a mutual fit has been hard to find.”
Remember, there are countless other candidates sailing in the same boat as you are! So, remain positive, make an aggressive job-search strategy and reset your expectations a bit. Your main objective at this point is getting back on the payroll so that you can start filling in the missing years.