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Back to Work: Resume Gaps

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Some people have contacted me and have asked, well I want to start applying for jobs, but I have been out of work for a while, and I am concerned about that.  I explain to them well there are legitimate job gaps and then there are gaps that may need more explaining. 

Legitimate Resume Gaps

  • Parenting 
    • Perhaps you were a stay-at-home Mom or Dad for several years taking care of children.  This is a legitimate gap.  You may not have been working in the field, but you were you definitely working at home.   
  • Caregiver 
    • Sometimes life takes us by surprise, and a loved one becomes ill.  We may have to give up our job temporarily because of this.  This is understandable. 
  • Long-term injury or illness 
    • Maybe you were ill or on an extended leave.  When you are sick, you can’t be at work.  This can be explained.  You are under no obligation to explain to a potential employer what your illness was. 
  • Student 
    • If you decided that you want to pursue your studies instead of working, this is acceptable.  Some people choose to focus on this completely so that they can get good grades and learn without the distraction of having a job too.   
  • Travel opportunities 
    • Sometimes people take some time off to travel.  If you had the opportunity to travel abroad for a good amount of time, this would be a fortunate circumstance.   This would be a good gap to explain to a potential employer because it shows them that you went out and tried something new and have gained experience with people from different backgrounds. 
  • Prison time 
    • If you served time and were incarcerated, you will have to honest about this.  You don’t need to put this information on your resume, but during the job interview, you will need to be forthright about this.  Always put a positive spin on a negative situation.  Talk about what positive growth happened to you while you there.  Perhaps you did a certain job during your time there.  Maybe you got a college degree while you were there.  Explain how you have learned a valuable lesson and that you are ready to come back and contribute to mainstream society. 

Gaps concerns an employer may have

  • Duration of the Gap 
    • If you have been out of work for a long period of time and it was not a legitimate job gap, you may have more difficulty explaining this to a potential employer. 
    • If your gap was less than three months, employers may not be too concerned with this. 
  • Job Hopping 
    • Job Hopping is frowned upon.  Generally, employers like to see that you have been in one place for at least a year or longer.  But sometimes things do happen.  You may have worked somewhere for six months, but then something better came your way.  You decided to change jobs—that’s okay.  But if you work at one place for a couple of months, and then another place for a few months, and then somewhere else for six months, employers aren’t going to like to see that because they will then think that you are not reliable. 
    • If you work at a temp job through an agency, working here and there for a few months, a few days, or a few weeks is acceptable because the employer will know that you did this type of work while trying to find something more permanent.  You must put on your resume that you worked temp jobs so that the employer will know that you weren’t job hop. 
    • Quitting jobs on a whim is never a good idea.  If you worked somewhere and did not like and just quit, don’t plan on using that employer as a reference.   

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