Explaining a job or career gap on your resume can make the most confident job seeker nervous. What will employers think of a year or more off for caregiving? How should you explain a year or more of job hunting during the Pandemic? What about that year of travel a few years back?
Luckily, gaps in employment are more the norm now, especially after huge shifts in employment following Covid-19 shutdowns.
Keep It Simple
I favor straightforward explanations, but you should choose the level of disclosure you’re comfortable with. It’s more common than ever to list reasons briefly, then move on.
Remember that it is illegal for employers to ask directly about certain topics in an interview, including details around your family, marital status, plans for more children, or medical conditions.
Also, phasing can vary greatly from industry to industry. What may work well in education may not fly in finance, for instance.
Below are some ways to describe a career gap. First, list the job gap clearly with dates as part of your work experience and highlight if it was planned. Some examples of wording include “Career Sabbatical,” “Career Break,” or simply “Sabbatical.”
Career Sabbatical | 2019 – 2021
Below that, list the reason briefly and add any new skills, training, education or related volunteer work you completed during that time.
Stay-at-home parents Returning to the Workforce
Took time off from professional career to raise young children.
- Completed remaining coursework for bachelor’s degree in business.
- Passed CPA Exam on first attempt.
Recovering from Illness (Mental or Physical Health Related)
Took leave of absence for medical condition that has since resolved.
Caring for a relative with an illness
Took time off to assist family member with long-term illness.
Homeschooling During Pandemic
Took time off to manage digital learning of young children during pandemic.
Took planned time off from career to travel throughout Europe.
- Improved language skills and passed B2 Certification in Spanish upon return to the United States.
Side hustle after a Layoff
Just Desserts Catering | 06/2020 – 02/2022
Started small business teaching at-home cooks to bake cakes for special occasions.
- Grew YouTube account to X through quality programming and social media promotion using Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
- Brought in $5K in gross revenue in first six months.
- Closed business to return to in-person work after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.
If your gap is more than 15 years ago, don’t feel the need to list it or explain it. Instead, create a new section labeled “Early Career Highlights” and briefly mention any experiences you would like to highlight.
You may be tempted to use a functional resume without dates of employment to hide a job gap. I discourage this approach with clients since recruiters have long ago learned that it’s a tipoff that someone has a job gap.
Instead, consider a hybrid format. This starts with a summary of strengths and skills, then includes a chronological work experience section. Check an example of one I’ve done here.
Simple, straightforward explanations project confidence without oversharing. You’ve got this!
And if you need help explaining your gap, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com for a quote on your document.