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How to Deal with a Gap in your Career History

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It is rare to complete a career and retire without one or two work history gaps along the way. Illness, family obligations and unemployment can all take their toll on a career. While some employers may see these gaps as a natural part of a career progression, others may look at your resume and question why you weren’t working. No worries-there are many ways you can easily handle addressing gaps in employment in your career and on your resume.

One way to ensure continuity in your career while dealing with a work history gap is to freelance. You may be able to work on projects at home while caring for a sick loved one. One example of how to list this on your resume:

Freelance Pharmaceutical Project Manager — XYZ City, Maine 1992-1994
Provided project management for the following companies: ABC, DEF, and GHI.

Another way to fill the gap between jobs is to volunteer. When you volunteer, you are still continuing to use skill sets you already have while also learning some new ones. List your work history first on your resume, then prominently list volunteer experience below that. You can make this volunteer experience stand out even more by placing it in a section called Related Volunteer Experience, which can be separate from previous volunteer experiences.

A functional resume will also help you to minimize work history gaps. Creating a functional resume reorganizes your career information into a skills summary, or list of keywords that describe your skills sets. A Professional Experience section divided into a few main areas of expertise will emphasize your experience while a reverse chronological Work History section merely lists your employers, the cities in which they are located and dates of employment. Emphasis is placed on your skill sets and experience instead of dates of employment.

You could still choose to use the common chronological resume format for your resume, and just list why you were out of work for a certain period. Many people do this when taking care of a very sick loved one. However, many people are not comfortable giving out such personal information on their resume. If this is your situation, simply build your resume with the work information you have, and be prepared to discuss gaps in employment during your interview.