Gaps in employment history

Wouldn’t it be great if life ran smoothly, we were successful in each job we applied for, and showed consistency throughout our employment history? Unfortunately, life rarely pans out like that. We all have unexpected gremlins that force us to make some crucial decisions that can ultimately affect our employment record. And that could mean your CV shows a gap in your employment history.

But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Employers like honesty. So be authentic, but don’t go into too much detail; some situations benefit from discretion. If you have career breaks in your employment history, it is best to mention them in your CV. Employers will notice these, so it is better to be upfront from the start. The most common career breaks are to go travelling. But you need to expand on this. For example, you could say “took a year out to go travelling, where I experienced living and working in multicultural environments.” Mention the work experience you did along the way, if any.

The same would apply if you took time out to raise a family, or become a carer for a family member. Mention this, employers’ now like to encourage a work/lifestyle balance. For example, you could write, “was primary carer to my father before his passing in [date],” or “|I raised my children, who are now in nursery/school aftercare and are no longer fully dependent on me.” You could also add in a little about how this gap influenced you, for example, “this enhanced my organisational, planning and problem solving abilities, allowing me to multi-task in an everchanging environment.”

The tricky part is explaining leave of absence due to ill-health. This, again, can be put in a positive light, and doesn’t have to hinder your chances. Instead of saying “I was off sick with a recurring health problem for a year,” you could explain it as “due to my recurring ill-health I felt it was of benefit to leave my last position. I have now fully recovered and am ready to re-enter the workforce and take on new challenges.”
If the gap wasn’t your decision, explain it positively, and give examples of how this enabled you to refocus and become proactive to enhance your overall performance and dedication. Your cover letter can be used to enhance the gap if it was significant, don’t go into too much detail in your CV, as this again will run the risk of it sounding like a novel.

You only have to explain gaps if these show discrepancies in your employment dates. If you were absent for a few weeks, or were on maternity/paternity leave and returned to the same workplace, these don’t have to be disclosed.

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