We often get questions from career coaching clients about challenges with their resume, and how to handle certain issues many people face. One of my clients, John, asked me a common one, “How do I handle a gap in my resume?” His situation was slightly unique in that he did not have a typical gap where he wasn’t working at all. He had a fellowship during that time and he did not know know whether to include that since it was not relevant to the jobs he was applying for. Another client, Patrice, had the more traditional type of gap. She was a stay at home mother for many years after being a physician in South Africa. She did not know what to say about her time as a mother.
Here’s some advice from our resume writer, Jasmine:
If you have a period of time when you were not working in a traditional job, but had some kind of work experience like a fellowship, or the Peace Corps, put it down. Include it even if it’s not relevant to the jobs you’re applying for. Better to have something in there than a gap in time. Mention it, and reference how, if in any way, it could be relevant to what you’re applying for. It might be in some way, so take a moment to consider that.
Write about what’s relevant at the beginning of the listing for that position so the employer sees what’s relevant right away. If there’s nothing relevant that’s okay, use the position as a placeholder to demonstrate what you were doing during that time. If you had time off work like Patrice and don’t have a fellowship, use volunteer work or something similar to show. Put down what you did do during that time. It’s better to show something than nothing.
Patrice managed a home renovation project during that time and took time to manage the medical care for her husband who unfortunately passed away. We suggest she mention those two things in a professional way on her resume – took time off to care for a sick relative as a one line reference so the employer knows what was going on. Luckily these days employers are more understanding that people have gaps in resume, but it’s still not okay to have nothing there.
Each person’s situation is different of course, and how you reference what happened during that time is different. The bottom line is, we suggest mentioning something even if it’s non-traditional or time off for something personal. You will have a chance to explain more during the interview if needed.
P.S. Be sure to check out our LinkedIn Consulting Program where you can learn how to effectively leverage your LinkedIn account for your job search and ongoing professional development.