Climb the Ladder

How to Explain an Employment Gap (and what to do when you’re in one)

Career gaps happen for so many different reasons. Maybe you took some time off to go back to school. Maybe you were taking care of a child, sick family member, or spent time traveling. In any case, we want to tell you our best advice not only for explaining a career gap, but how to make the most of one as well. If you know that a long period of time is coming up where you’ll be unable to work, there are several things you can do to make the most of your time spent unemployed.

Ready? Let’s show employers you still got it!

How to explain your career gap

The first thing anyone with a gap in their resume needs to understand is that employers are also human. Most will be able to understand that life happens and, in some cases, you’ll need to take some time off work until life gets itself together again. So what’s the best way you can explain your career gap?

Simply be honest.

Explain your situation

Whether it was your choice to take time away from work or not, the best policy when explaining a gap in employment is simply to explain the situation. Robin, one of our Co-founders at Scouted, says that if your employment gap lasts for more than a year, it’s a good idea to make note of it on your resume. This way, any employer has the whole story and the right idea from the get-go. This will also make it so that you can put your mind to rest when it comes to explaining an employment gap during an interview. Obviously the company decided to give you a chance anyway.

Explain why you’re ready to go back to work

If you left the workforce to take care of family or complete coursework, are you finished doing that? Are there thing in your life that may divide your focus from your work? If you’re confident that your life is in a good place to begin work again, touch on that with your employer. You don’t need to go into great detail as to why you had to leave work, but putting a hiring manager’s mind at ease and letting them know that you’re ready to return could help to clear the air.

You’ll also want to explain why your job experience is still relevant. Here’s how to do that:

[sc name=“Newsletter”]

Stay busy

The golden rule of career gaps is to stay busy. But staying busy does just mean you should be hitting the gym every day between jobs. You know, unless you’re going for a personal trainer type thing. No, your time spent “staying busy” should be time well spent. What does that mean?

Improve yourself

So you had to take a year or two off work. Sure. Employers actually see that a lot for one reason or another, but can you still offer fresh experience and know-how? Any industry can change rapidly and while 2 years might not seem like much, you’re going to want to make sure you still know and understand everything there is about the job you want to be doing. How can you do that? No matter how busy someone may or may not be during their career gap, most can still find the time to take a course in their line of work. The internet is bursting with resources from free to inexpensive online courses, workshops and local meetups, or just really really informative YouTube videos.

Start a side hustle

So you might not be able to commit to working for someone else at the moment, but who’s to say you can work for yourself for a stretch? Starting a side gig and being your own boss for a period of time can actually be a great way to show an employer how you take initiative, get creative, and solve problems on your own. Doing some freelance work between jobs can be a great way to fill a career gap as it gives you the opportunity to gain relevant experience, make some cash, and the flexibility to work when you can and take time off when you can’t. Read our post on how to use a side hustle to get the experience you need to land your dream job!

Volunteer or start a passion project

Much like starting a side hustle, spending time doing volunteer work or managing a passion project can be a great way to show an employer that, even without a boss looking over your shoulder, you love to work and take action. Doing either one of these can also demonstrate that you’re passionate about things and you’re willing to work hard for the things you’re passionate about. If you’re able to convince an employer that you’re passionate about their company and what they do, they’ll expect those traits to carry over when you come work for them too. Not too shabby.

Build your network before you need it

While you’re still employed, do your best to build up and maintain your professional network before an employment gap comes your way. When it’s time for you to begin working again, your contacts could come in handy when it comes to giving you a recommendation or, hey, even a job.

Consider working part-time

Even if working part-time isn’t your ideal gig, it could be the perfect way to make sure your experience stays relevant and up to date while you’re in between full-time jobs. Like we said, many of today’s industries are changing fast and it’s important to show that you haven’t been left behind when returning back to full-time work. The cash you earn could be a great way to invest in some of those online classes we talked about, too!

Has an employment gap happened to you? How did you handle an employment gap in your industry and what did you do to stay busy throughout? Leave your comments below and share with someone who’s found himself with a bit more free time recently.

Like what you’re reading? Sign up to get our best career advice and job search tips.


Candidates, Climb the Ladder