Have you taken a career break and don’t know how to address it on your resume? You are not alone. There are many reasons why someone may decide to take a career break including parenting responsibilities, caring for a sick family member, taking time out to travel, for further education or upskilling, to pursue a freelance career or redundancy.
Knowing how to address these gaps on your resume can be challenging. Many people think that a career break will jeopardise their future career prospects however it could work to your advantage if you know how to make the most of it!
Potential employers will expect an explanation. Your goal is to prove you have been engaged even if you have not been formally employed.
1. Be Honest
Be honest and authentic – don’t try to extend dates or other roles to cover the gap. Provide an honest, direct and confident explanation for your career break.
2. Resume Format
Your resume format can assist in minimising the visibility of gaps in your employment history. If your career break was relatively short – less than 6 months you could insert years instead of months for previous positions (e.g. “2014-2016”).
If your career break is longer, provide your reason on the resume in the same format as your other roles listing any skills you gained during the career break. Be succinct and don’t go into too much detail.
Provide a summary statement of your career highlights at the top of your resume highlighting your skills and accomplishments as opposed to what your role entailed.
Incorporate a brief explanation of your career break in your cover letter to your potential employer if the break was long.
Have a compelling, direct and confident response to ensure the reason for your career break comes across in a positive way. Outline any new skills you gained and how they could integrate with different aspects of your future position.
4. Transferrable skills and Benefits of Career Break
Include other experience and transferable skills gained during the career break. Did you freelance, write blogs, volunteer, write newsletters for your children’s school, gain a new qualification?
I had a career break after the birth of my third child. During this break I oversaw a major renovation and listed project management as a skill I gained during my break.
5. Put a Positive Spin on It
Ensure your career gap is portrayed in a positive light. Demonstrate that the situation has ended or is no longer a factor. Stress that you are one hundred percent ready to commence work without requiring further breaks.
I had another career break to care for my sick daughter who was unable to attend school for a year. I explained that I had a career break to care for my sick daughter however she is now in her second year at university and thriving.
- “Due to a medical condition I took some time to recover, have returned to full health and feel ready to take on my next challenge.”
- “I always give one hundred percent to my job and I knew that I could not do that at this time. I decided to take a career break to care for my family. My partner and I share our work load/domestic responsibilities now and I am ready to hit the ground running”.
- If you were made redundant remember redundancy is a common occurrence and not a result of your actions or performance. Your role was made redundant not you. Provide evidence of strong performance/experience gained as you explain circumstances of downsizing.
6. Stay Up to Date
Stay in touch with your professional networks through LinkedIn, events, webinars, podcasts, industry bodies and continue to upskill in the latest technology.
Demonstrate you are knowledgeable of recent developments in your industry. Your future employer will be looking for evidence that you will adapt quickly when you return to work.
A career break – either voluntary or after being made redundant can bring long term benefits such as improvements in health, happiness, a new appreciation for better work-life balance which in the long term, results in higher work productivity. Be honest and authentic with your explanations, stay true to yourself and don’t settle for second best!
Janet is a highly empathic coach who will challenge you with honest, constructive feedback. She uses a strength based coaching methodology and a range of creative techniques and assessments to elicit new insights, perspectives and possibilities for her clients.