How to talk about a career gap

How to talk about a career gap

Welcome to the final issue of our job search series. Over the past month or so, we’ve shared tips on finding entry-level jobs, changing careers, and landing remote roles. Today, we’re talking about how to frame career gaps.

But first, a quick announcement: We are running a promotion for new Coursera Plus subscribers! Through November 24, you can get your first month of Coursera Plus for $1. Search on the linked page

(Re)framing your career gap

Career gaps, or employment gaps, are stretches of time between jobs when you aren’t working at a traditional job. You may have a career gap if you, for example, decided to pause working while you raised children or cared for another family member, took medical leave, went back to school, or simply couldn’t find the right role for you.

Career gaps are normal and common. Life takes each of us in different directions, sometimes calling us to step back from a career—but that doesn’t mean your growth and development pauses during that gap.

Ultimately, as a job seeker, what you gained from your career gap is more important than the reason you took a career gap.

Think about the skills you learned or practiced in the time since you stepped away from your last role and embrace your career gap as time well spent. For example, when you were raising children, you may have learned to maintain schedules, delegate tasks, and manage resources—all useful project management skills. When you were traveling to different countries, you may have enhanced your language skills and cultural diplomacy, which can come in handy while working for a global company or conducting international business.

Next, proudly display those skills on your resume, either by inserting them into a dedicated skills section or giving yourself a job title and listing your responsibilities in your experience section. Here’s an example for a stay-at-home parent:

Stay-at-Home Mom

Self-employed, 2018—present (Atlanta, Georgia)

  • Managed schedules for two children under the age of 10, organizing competing appointments and activities
  • Oversaw weekly grocery budget, reducing overall spending by 8% over two years
  • Created a local parenting group on Facebook that currently features over 60 members;  planned meet-ups and collected resources and tools to feature each week

Think about how you may also talk about this period of time during interviews. The goal here is to retain control over the story of your career gap. See this as an opportunity to highlight the skills you gained—particularly those which you may not have been exposed to otherwise—and how those skills shaped you into the high-quality job candidate you are today.

Keep growing

Sharpen your resume with SUNY Online’s project-based course, How to Write a Resume.

Gain perspective on framing your work-life balance with the University of Pennsylvania’s Achieving Personal and Professional Success Specialization.

Formalize your new skill set with a Professional Certificate from industry leaders aligned with your new skills.

With that, our job search series comes to an end, but the conversation continues in the comments. Leave your questions, tips, and encouragement below—we’d love to cheer you on!