How To Navigate Employment Gaps In Your CV
We're all human! That means sometimes we have 'stuff' to do, sometimes we get sick, and sometimes we just don't wanna! What we're saying is - gaps in employment are common, so don't stress. It only raises eyebrows if you've left big gaps unexplained OR you've explained them away with an eye-watering level of detail. (Employers don't need to know about the complications you experienced after haemorrhoid surgery or the details of a messy breakup. Look; we're personally fine with oversharing, but your professional CV document is not the place to do that mmm-kay?)
Gaps in your CV that are less than one year shouldn't be an issue. Look at this timeline for reference:
2019 - PRES Name of Company, Job Title
2016 - 2019 Name of Company, Job Title
2012 - 2016 Name of Company, Job Title
2008 - 2012 Name of Company, Job Title
This timeline doesn't show any missing years, BUT the person might not have worked between Feb 2012 and December 2012, and you wouldn't even know! This highlights that historical CV gaps are not that big of a deal, but recent or current gaps (i.e. You're currently unemployed and have been for two years) can be much harder to cover.
We recognise that some reasons for employment breaks are extremely personal and sensitive, and they simply can't be explained in your CV. We are going to look at those scenarios here too.
First off, let's start with the easier to fill gaps. If you have an employment gap in your CV that is longer than 12-24 months due to any of the following reasons, here are some ways to smooth things over.
MATERNITY/PATERNITY LEAVE (and/or) RAISING CHILDREN
This one is a quick fix! All you need to do is add the dates to your employment timeline, and write 'Maternity/Paternity Leave' - No further explanation required! (i.e. 2009-2012 Maternity Leave)
Often parents raising children will be involved in a range of extracurricular activities related to schooling (i.e. Treasurer on the Board of Trustees, fundraising for school trips, etc.) so you're welcome to include these roles in your CV if you want to give employers detail of other things you have been doing outside of raising the next generation.
Whether you were travelling for pleasure of being dragged/whisked around the world with a partner who was working internationally, travel is a perfectly legitimate reason for an extended CV gap. As per the maternity leave, write the to and from dates and 'travel' on your CV (i.e. 2015 - 2019, World Travel). If you volunteered during your adventures, feel free to include them in your extracurricular section!
If you've taken a deliberate sabbatical/career break to pursue your own interests for a time, it's okay to say this in your CV! All you need to do is write the to-from years and state 'Career Break'. If they ask you about it in the interview, that is where you can give them a brief synopsis of what you got up to! (i.e., walking the length of NZ, building your own house, painting a whole series for an exhibition, snowboarding for the entire year, etc.)
If you spent your time volunteering rather than engaging in paid work, this still counts as work, so include the volunteer stint in your timeline as you would with a regular job. Work is work, in our opinion - paid or otherwise!
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Now it's time to discuss those gaps that can't be easily explained/added to your CV timeline. No matter the situation, there is always a way to highlight your expertise and experience as it relates to a job vacancy, so let's delve into these 'hard to fill' gaps and see what we can do.
ILLNESS + INJURY Whether you have suffered illness or injury, or you have been directly affected by an injury or illness (as the primary caregiver for someone in your family, for example), you can't really list 2018-2020 'Suffering Mental Illness' in your CV without it opening up the door for unfair judgement or questioning. Some things are personal, and that's how they should stay. So what do you do in a situation like this? A lot of these gap covering/explaining situations need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the specifics, it may be suitable to give some information (i.e. 2018-2020 'Career Break due to Injury + Rehabilitation') In more private scenarios, you might want to write (i.e. 2018 - 2020 'Career Break') and when asked to expand on this in an interview, you can share what you are comfortable with. I.e:
"I took some time off work to focus on my health and decide on my next career move"
- or -
"I got sick and have spent the last 12 months receiving treatment. I am now fully healed and ready to lend my commitment to overcoming challenges to a role that requires tenacity and drive"
- or -
"I have spent the last 16 months as the primary caregiver for my father who was ill and has recently passed." You can be as brief and broad as you like with your comments. An employer cannot probe and ask you personal questions, so please remember that if you don't feel comfortable answering, don't. UNEMPLOYED + JOB SEEKING FOR A LONG TIME
The old adage 'It's easier to find a job when you have a job' springs to mind. Ugh! Annoying, but often true. If you've found yourself in a situation where you lost/left your job and have been (unsuccessfully) trying to find work for what feels like an eternity, we can help!
First off - we're guessing you have not been staring at a wall watching paint dry while you've been off work! If you've been volunteering or getting out there in the community to lend a hand in some way, include this in your CV! Maybe you've been helping out at your children's school or giving a family member a hand with their company (bookkeeping, social media management, blogging, etc.). This is all good stuff to include in your CV. If you haven't been volunteering, check out the huge range of voluntary organisations in New Zealand and get involved with an organisation/cause that resonates with you while you continue to search for paid employment.
As hard as it is to find work when you have spent time in prison, we know it is possible. In addition to linking up with organisations that work closely with NZ prisons to match people to jobs, you might have participated in some training while in prison, including completing NZQA unit standards across a wide range of areas. Adding the courses you attended and the qualifications you attained to your CV is a great start to bridging an employment gap.
Maybe you've had a job with no gaps, but you've been working in an alternative industry that you're embarrassed/fearful of including in your CV (or you think it might negatively impact your chances of finding mainstream work). How do you get around that? If you left this work out of your CV, it would be a huge gap! While this is certainly a more complex thing to navigate, we don't think it is impossible.
Due to the highly varied and contextual range of employment that falls under the category of 'alternative', we suggest the best course of action here is to contact us and ask for assistance with your specific situation. We've never encountered an 'alternative' job we couldn't work with!
Whatever headaches your CV gaps are causing, please remember, we are here to help! We hope you've found this blog useful, but if you need some additional assistance, please reach out and ask.