You have some time gaps on your resume, and you already know ahead of time that your future employer is going to ask about them. This situation gives you an opportunity to master your personal branding techniques. Rather than assume gaps in your employment are a negative, learn five ways to present yourself in a better light by turning a potential problem into an advantage.
1. Took Time Off to Travel
You felt like you needed a break from the corporate world, so you took time off to travel for a year. Time gaps such as this don't have to make it appear as if you were on vacation the entire time (even though you were). Focus on how your traveling enhanced your professional development. For example, you volunteered at several locations where you traveled and your volunteer supervisor can vouch for your skills. Show how you improved your cultural awareness and diversity through your travels, and now you're ready to move back into a career with even more energy, stamina and panache than before.
Avoid talking about how much fun you had going all over the world and seeing new things. Instead, say how you learned to manage your finances and travel expenses on a regular basis while also learning how to deal with new cultures and new people.
2. Went Back to School
Going back to school offers a great way to sharpen your skills and earn new certifications. Time gaps for education are easy to explain on your resume, especially since you have transcripts to prove it and new skills to talk about. Consider having a professor as a reference. Tell a hiring manager or recruiter that you wanted to enhance your skills and earn a certain certification to expand your professional life.
3. Took Care of Family
Raising young children or taking care of elderly relatives has its own set of challenges, such as multitasking and serving others. Hone your industry skills while you have spare time when caring for a family member. Let an employer know you freelanced or looked into self-employment options. Be honest and up front about these types of time gaps and describe how you problem-solved when taking care of someone while juggling responsibilities.
4. Lost Your Job
Losing your job due to a layoff is not a fun way to explain time gaps in a resume. Be honest about why you lost your job, whether it was due to corporate downsizing or a merger. Do not bad-mouth a previous employer by saying it was out to get you. Instead, talk about how you and your former supervisor left on good terms and how he can vouch for your skills.
5. Focused on Your Health
You do not have to say specifically what your health issues were, but you can talk about how you overcame challenges and you're a stronger person after taking time off to focus on your health. Demonstrate how you kept your skills current while taking time off.
Time gaps in a resume don't mean your professional life is over. What you did during those gaps and how you present your skills are the keys to landing a position after taking extended time off.
Photo courtesy of iscan cumbrea at Flickr.com