If you have been out of the workforce for a period of time you are not alone. Many people have periods of time during their careers when they are not working due to a variety of reasons, including:

•    lost a job 
•    completed a degree 
•    took care of children or elderly parents 
•    tended to health issues 
•    traveled extensively 
•    pursued personal projects 
•    simply took a break

As you prepare to get back to work, be ready to explain gaps in your employment history.

How to Address Career Gaps

On your resume:  

Here are a few ways to address potential employer concerns about gaps on your resume:

  1. Drop the months from your employment dates on your resume and just use years: Example: 2014–2016 instead of May 2014 to February 2016 
  2. Consider a summary statement on your resume to help the employer focus on your skills instead of time away from the workplace
  3. Group your work experience on your resume into categories rather than following strict reverse chronology.  Headings such as “Marketing Experience” and “Training Experience,” will help downplay gaps 
  4. Include any other related experience you gained during your time out of the workforce. Think about volunteer work, projects (even if independent projects), professional development courses, certifications, or involvement in professional associations 
  5. Address your time out of the workforce in your cover letter, e.g.:

 ”…Following this work experience, I devoted myself to volunteer work outside of the legal profession. These volunteer experiences have given me an opportunity to take on a high level of responsibility in leadership positions, helping me to hone critical skills, including management, leadership, and teamwork. This work has been rewarding, and I am excited and ready to move my focus back to my professional career in the private sector. “

During a job interview:

During the interview, be prepared to address employment gap questions such as, “What have you been doing for the past three years?” The key is to prepare a response that you feel comfortable with.

Keep in mind that you do not need to divulge too much information. For example: 

I made the decision to take a hiatus from the workforce in order to provide around the clock care for a sick family member/young children. 

I was out of the workforce due to a health issue, which is now resolved. 

Touch on the circumstances briefly (illness, family, etc.) and move on. 

  • If you took time off to care for children or an ill adult, think of all the skills you used: multi-tasking, solving problems, managing time, handling stress, negotiating and mediating (especially with healthcare issues). You can point out these skills as well and how they will be useful in your new job.
  • If you volunteered, worked on projects, served in a professional association, took classes, or did anything else that was professionally related during your time out of work, be sure to highlight these experiences and the skills that you gained: e.g., re: volunteer work: “I  honed my leadership and management skills through my project management work with xyz organization” 

The most important aspect in this conversation is to emphasize that you are ready and excited to get back to work.

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