Explaining your resume gap
20 May 2022 at 7:50 am
To suggest it’s been a bumpy few years in the professional lives of some is an understatement. The pandemic has created widespread social disruption and Australia has seen a new three R’s emerge – “redundancies, resignations and re-structures” – to replace the classic “readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic”. Jokes aside, it’s been sobering for those on the pointy end. Like many people, you may now find yourself with a chapter of unemployment or under-employment on your resume.
So what do you do when a prospective employer evenly asks, “what were you doing for that seven months?”
The question can feel awkward. Your peers have been working, polishing their skills, paying their bills, completing projects, offering excuses for not attending social events you can’t afford. Meanwhile, you might have been dealing with the realities of claiming JobSeeker, lobbying recruiters and employers, and making ends meet. But don’t sell yourself short. That’s hard work: you’ve built resources, and by meeting those inherent challenges have built up some true resilience. So if you’ve put in some hard yards, talk that up, it’s highly valuable.
If you’re younger, don’t fall into the trap of thinking any recent ups-and-downs will define a decades-long career. Reasonable employers will know that COVID gaps on a resume will have often been unavoidable: be clear, straightforward and explain how you can harness the skills learned over your resume gap for their organisation.
So keep those things in mind, and try and steer the interview in a positive direction – but stick to honesty and facts. Don’t say you finished your stunning new novel (unless you actually did – in which case, dazzle away), but perhaps you kept a job diary, learned how to network, attended online employment webinars, or got some free online coaching.
If you’re a mid-career or mature age jobseeker, you’ll likely have been around long enough to see some revolving professional doors. It can be hard to maintain perspective, but for older workers facing disruption and work gaps, upskilling is even more important to demonstrate an ability to learn on the spot, and self-start your own development. So if you’ve done those things, talk them up.
Developing professionally is vitally important, of course, but developing personal smarts – emotional intelligence, patience, perseverance – is also of considerable value. So, if you have a gap, don’t be afraid to frame personal development as an achievement, especially if you developed some transferable skills. Any employer worth their salt will see upsides in both your honesty and what you offer them.