How To Keep A Work Gap From Costing You The Job
Life's complicated. While some employers believe that all employees should have a "work first, life later" mentality, that's just not always possible. Related: How To Cover Employment Gaps On Your Resume I remember how becoming a Dad for the first time completely threw off my productivity. The combination of shock, sleep deprivation, and sensory overload turned me into a walking zombie, and forced a brief leave of absence. You take time off to finish a degree. You care for a loved one in need. All of these things can, and will, happen over the course of a career. But they also cause two dreaded words to pop up in your background: work gap.
Here’s How To Keep It From Being A Deal-Breaker:
ResumeWork gaps six months in length or longer should not be ignored, and forget about creating a "functional" resume that obscures your professional timeline: recruiters and hiring agents are trained to pick up on these discrepancies, and will just assume you did nothing during this period. The best approach is to get proactive, not defensive. Create a brief “Career Summary” at the start of the resume which touches on the gap. For example, if you recently left the workforce to pursue a degree, you could develop an opening summary such as:
Multifaceted professional with a strong background in healthcare administration, combined with a recent graduate degree in Human Resources. Interested in meshing the two in a Human Resources and Benefits Coordinator or similar capacity for a healthcare-related corporation or hospital system.Insert a 1-2 line “Career Note” within the “Professional Experience” section of the resume which explains the gap. Consider adding any volunteer work, freelance projects, or part-time gigs you did during this time. If the gap was family or life circumstance-related, touch on that. If the reason for the gap was obtaining a new degree, place the education section near the top of the resume. This visually makes it clear that the gap was tied into your decision to return to school.
Cover LetterCover letters are all about making a connection with your reader, and as such present a great opportunity to manage the “I have a work gap” issue. The key is to somehow tie it into the specific value you can bring to an organization. Consider a paragraph like this:
Leaving the senior management track to spend a year as a full-time father was a challenge to say the least, but one which I look back on with an immense amount of pride. Growing up with a Dad who regularly spent 60+ hours in the office, I was committed to forming a strong bond with my son during that crucial first year. Interestingly, while changing diapers, taking several continuing education classes in organizational leadership and conflict resolution, and managing the household affairs while my wife recuperated, I found that my skill in handling pressure in a positive way truly came in handy!