More and more people are faced with employment gaps on their resumes. What is an employment gap? Like it sounds, it is a space of time when one was not working. These gaps can occur for many reasons: a lost job, a spouse’s job promotion and subsequent move, raising children, or caring for a sick child or elderly parent, to name a few.
So, what is the best way to handle the gap on a resume?
There are two ways to address it:
Education — If you went back to school, add that to the education section of your resume, and it won’t be viewed as a gap. If you didn’t go back to school, but you took a couple of courses or attended seminars or conferences, list those experiences to demonstrate that you remained current with your industry. If the classes, seminars, or conferences are not directly relatable to your industry, then find a way to connect them. For example, if you work in the finance industry, a creative writing class you took during your employment gap wasn’t simply for fun; it honed your writing skills.
Volunteer Experience — It is unlikely that you only sat at home and watched television during your employment gap, so make a list of things you did, especially any volunteer experience. It doesn’t have to be formal volunteer experience, such as spending every Saturday with Habitat for Humanity; maybe a friend asked you to edit a marketing brochure for a nonprofit. You can list those experiences to demonstrate you were active and using business acumen even though you were not formally employed.
What if you didn’t volunteer and have little work experience? Create a skills-based resume versus the more traditional experience-based one. Tailor the skills on the resume to the skills listed in the job description. If you were caring for an ailing parent, then you have demonstrable skills in organization, time management, communication, managing people, reliability, and problem-solving.
If your gap is due to the inability to find a job, then start volunteering now to add valuable experience to your resume.
When it comes to the interview, be factual about your experience gap, but never apologize. There is nothing wrong with stepping away from a job to raise children or care for an elderly parent. If a potential company insinuates that there is something wrong, then perhaps you should look elsewhere. The company probably won’t be a good fit.
Anne Converse Willkomm Director of Graduate Studies Goodwin College Drexel University