By Dr Eugene Brink
We all know that life sometimes just “happens” – whether by choice or necessity.
An unforeseen life event forces you to stop working for a while. Or you get laid off through no fault of your own, and you’re looking for another job. “Many of us take time off, for one reason or another, from working. Sometimes, it’s by choice ─ maybe you were raising a child, traveling, taking care of a sick relative, or went back to school. In other cases, your time off from work may occur because you were laid off or fired and it took time to find a new job,” writes career expert Alison Doyle.
Be that as it may, a gap in your career history is something that will probably raise some questions. But this is not insuperable and a few hints to paper over these cracks will go a long way.
- Be resourceful, but brutally honest
“Firstly, you don’t need to include all of your experience in your CV. If you’ve been in employment for years and held a number of different positions, there’s nothing wrong with scaling back the detail – which could be an easy way to take care of a few gaps,” says Michael Cheary of Reed.co.uk.
He says using only the years and omitting the months on your CV is acceptable. “The same goes for your reasons for leaving your previous positions. This keeps your CV to the point, and helps to keep gaps to a minimum.”
According to Cheary, if you do have a significant gap in your employment history, there are better places to address them than in the middle of your CV. “Your cover letter, for example, can be used to elaborate on the gap, and to suggest why you view this position as the perfect way to get back into work.”
Boyle contends that some deft formatting could also be employed. “For example, you can put the dates in plain font instead of bold. Or, you can use a smaller font than the one you’re using for the company name and your job title.”
Boyle and Cheary agree that there is one crucial caveat here. “The single most important thing to remember when dealing with a gap in your CV is that, whatever your reason for taking a break from employment, honesty is (almost) always the best policy,” Cheary says.
Leaving something out completely, lying about the gap or extending your period of employment in a previous position to cover up a gap, will come back to haunt you.
- Highlight paid and unpaid work
Amanda Augustine, resident career expert for Talent Inc., says if you volunteered somewhere or took an unpaid internship, it deserves to be mentioned in your CV. “Treat each opportunity as you would a paid job by describing your role and highlighting your major contributions and accomplishments on your resumé. If you stayed at home to raise your children, don’t discount the valuable experience you gained while managing the household and caring for your family.”
According to Boyle, freelancing, consulting or taking a sabbatical are all relevant items to be listed on your CV. Also, if you’re struggling to find work after being retrenched, it is wise to use this time to upskill with a short course or doing some volunteer work. The gaps will therefore be easier to explain and it will set your CV apart.
- Highlight the positive
Don’t curb your enthusiasm!
Boyle advises that you emphasise any constructive activities during your gap period. “Finally, exude enthusiasm for returning to work and make a very strong case for why your target job would be exciting for you and an excellent fit.”
Alison Doyle, 7 June 2019, “How to explain an employment gap on your resumé”, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-explain-a-gap-on-your-resume-2063188.
Amanda Augustine, 2020, “How to handle gaps in your employment history”, https://www.topresume.com/career-advice/how-to-explain-resume-gaps.
Michael Cheary, 2020, “How to: Explain a gap in your CV”, https://www.reed.co.uk/career-advice/how-to-explain-a-gap-in-your-cv/.