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Many job applications will ask you to account for a period of unemployment between jobs. While a large gap between jobs isn't favorable, there are several legitimate concerns that may have affected your ability to work for a period of time. To assure that you do not jeopardize your consideration for the job, be sure to put thought into how you explain your time away from the workforce.
Reasons for Employment Gaps
It's understood that most people experience a brief lapse in employment when changing jobs or relocating for work, and these gaps do not require explanation. Questions arise when there are months or years between one employer and the next. Employers are apprehensive to hire someone who may suffer from job anxiety or other work related problems. However, there are some legitimate reasons you might have taken time off work, including health concerns, caring for family, or a return to school. Properly accounting for the period between jobs can alleviate the employer's concerns, and ensure that you are not overlooked during the application process.
Making the Grade
Your career path may have several detours for schooling or continuing education. If you left the workforce to return to school, let the employer know that the gap between jobs was for educational purposes. Highlight ways in which your decision to return to school enhanced your skills or knowledge of the field. Stress key accomplishments such as finishing in the top percentile of your class. Point out when you used a bachelor's degree as a foundation to earn a master's degree in the same field, or, if your schooling was to help you change careers, discuss how a fresh outlook can bring innovative ideas to the field.
Sometimes family obligations mean putting your career on hold. You may have left work to care for a young child or elderly parent, and during your time away the company closed or your job was eliminated. Make the employer you're applying with aware that you left the workforce due to family obligations, but do not feel the need to give details on your situation. Be sure that you are up-to-date on your field when applying, and focus on new life skills that you learned while away from the work force. Skills like time-management, organization and developing budgets are talents used to run a household that are also needed on the job. As an example, if you volunteered as a troop leader or teacher's aid for your children's school, you might state that you developed strong leadership skills during your time off.
Health concerns often lead to time off from a job. Disabilities can arise from accidents, and medical conditions can make it difficult to continue your career or remain with your present company. Discussions can get sensitive when accounting for the period between jobs due to a medical issue. Do not feel obligated to disclose any more details than you feel are necessary. During the interview, remember that it is not important to divulge the severity of your illness or injury. Keep the conversation focused on your accomplishments and proficiency in business.
- CBS News: Make Your Time Between Jobs Work for You
- Kings County Job Training Office: Filling the Gaps in Your Employment Record
- Monster.com: Resume Dilemma: Employment Gaps and Job-Hopping
- Adow.com: How to Explain Gaps in Your Work History?
- University of California Berkeley: How to Address Gaps in Employment History
- The Ladders: How to Explain Employment Gaps, Sabbaticals and Negatives on Your Resume
Julie Richards is a freelance writer from Ohio. She has been writing poetry and short stories for over 30 years, and published a variety of e-books and articles on gardening, small business and farming. She is currently enrolled at Kent State University completing her bachelor's degree in English.
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