A client of mine, Sherry, needed résumé help. She had a sixteen-month work gap because she cared for her father while he battled and lost his fight to cancer. Sherry had been his primary care provider, and she had (understandably) put her professional life on hold.
Work gaps are common, and many professionals experience career interruptions. Now that Sherry is ready to return to work her challenge is what to say on the résumé regarding the gap. A few résumé strategies that can help:
A résumé needs to provide a good first impression. Recruiters and hiring managers are familiar with résumé format strategies. So, using a functional résumé format can highlight employment issues, and the functional résumé format is not always applicant tracking software (ATS) friendly.
If there is a gap, for whatever reason, use a hybrid résumé format—a combination of functional and chronological. Hybrid résumé formats provide a way to highlight skills and contributions while also offering chronological experience as it aligns with a job need.
The résumé experience section is not only for paid, full-time work information. For my client, Mike who was away from work for four years caring for two young children the résumé gap was not a big issue.
Mike cared for his kids while also volunteering to gain new valuable skills. Within the résumé experience section, we listed Mike’s volunteer contributions, just like his other full-time positions, highlighting his new skills and accomplishments.
Volunteer roles, part-time work, and contract work can be used in the résumé experience section to account for gaps.
Is It Necessary
If a gap is less than 12 months, consider if the résumé needs to account for the gap. Some job seekers secure interviews and get job offers without having a statement on the résumé regarding an employment gap.
Other professionals choose to include a simple work gap statement like family care provider, global travel, or personal sabbatical. Be sure to include the gap dates to retain a chronological flow in the experience section.
Caring for people is a demanding and intense role. Don’t downplay that contribution within a résumé by using a creative title. A few questionable titles my clients have offered include household CEO, non-digital activity coordinator, tantrum negotiator, or death transition supporter. If the desired position is for a comedian, then maybe these creative job titles are appropriate. For most professionals, a simple statement on the résumé like care provider or sabbatical is enough information for a hiring manager.
The job market is competitive. Reentry into the workforce takes time. If you experience a few bumps, don't let the challenge discourage you. Review the résumé from an employer’s perspective and then modify the content as needed.
When reentering the job market, consider the job search approach. Only focusing online to find work opportunities can be a challenging way to get employed. Instead make an effort to connect with other professionals in-person by volunteering, networking, or joining associations. If you need help with your résumé contact me.