"How do you explain a break in your resume? or a period where you have put your career on the back burner to pursue other things?"
Many of my clients have had career breaks at some point. These have been to do with all manner of things from illness to redundancy, family situations or travel. But very few people want to talk about them openly. Instead they most commonly hide them in vagueness and, when probed, they tend to unleash a "warts and all" version of what happened.
Having time out is very very common. Sometimes we choose it, sometimes it just happens. But it can become an advantage.
Regardless of the anti-discrimination laws which exist, most people are sensitive about gaps because they believe hiring managers will make assumptions about their potential future performance in a role. And sadly this does happen. But what's more compelling is that these "gaps" are often the things that enrich our lives in some significant way and make us more interesting employees.
Most recruiters and hiring managers are trained to look out for a gap on a resume.
Because a gap is an easy way to find out more about you.
So here's the thing to remember. It's how you talk about it that matters.
Whether you talk about a gap with confidence and clarity, blatant honesty, lies or vagueness speaks volumes. It gives them a valuable insight into your personality and your self-awareness.
Never ever let them trick you into giving the "warts and all" version, or feeling inadequate in any way.
The golden rule is this: OWN THE GAP!
The objective is to portray yourself in a positive light to potential employers whilst disclosing the information you feel comfortable sharing.
It's never smart to lie. Lies can be easily unravelled and are not the basis for a successful relationship with a new company. They can hurt your reputation.
But it's also important to be calculated in how you communicate with others in order to make the right impression. The "warts and all" version of how you didn't like your old boss and quit won't do you any favours. It's best to tell the story so it's anchored in truth and has a positive spin. Then practice it and make sure that you can answer questions with confidence.
Here's some general tips:
Avoid having obvious gaps on your resume.
Talk about gaps in an authentic, positive way.
Focus on how the experience has given you new skills or helped you grow.
Here's some examples:
The redundancy has given me a really great opportunity to spend some time building my digital skills, which has become a real passion of mine. I am really excited about finding a role which allows me to put this into practice on top of my core experience.
I'd always wanted to start a business and I'm so glad I gave it a go. I've learned so much about marketing and commercial management . In the end the 24/7 nature of the business had too great an impact on my family life so I now know it's not for me, but these new skills will make me a much better operator when I go back into a sales job.
Here's a few reminders:
Background checks are common. An increasing number of job offers are subject to confirming details of your past employment.
Laws exist to protect people from discrimination. You don't have to answer questions about your personal situation, but you do need to handle it constructively.
Things like maternity leave, long service leave or extended sick leave are often still considered "continuous service."
If you're on an unplanned break it's also good to do things which build a positive story: volunteer work, upskilling, study, travel to name a few. But that's a topic for another blog
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