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Gaps in Employment

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 18 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Gaps In Employment

Have a gap in your employment background? Whether it's one hole of a few months or several holes spanning years, you can't change your history; however, you can make sure that your résumé or curriculum vitae (CV) emphasizes your strengths, not perceived weaknesses.

Eliminate Dates from Your CV

One somewhat controversial, but often used, method of eradicating the "employment gap" element from your CV is to simply omit all dates from your document. That means the reader(s) of your CV will have no way of knowing when you performed a certain job, graduated from college, or won a particular award.

Obviously, this is a tricky proposition. Some hiring managers are suspicious of a CV that crosses their desk and has no date insertions. And if you need to fill out an application form for your target company, you may not be able to exclude the dates without raising a few eyebrows or hurting your chances for employment. Thus, it's a bit of a gamble to use this method, but one worth taking if you feel your gaps are bigger obstacles than a dateless CV would be.

"Cloak" the Gaps in Your CV

If you prefer to be "up front" about the years you worked for a particular company, there's no rule that says you have to list them first. For instance, consider these two examples; the first CV "Employment History" section highlights the years the individual worked, while the second puts the spotlight on the jobs he or she held.

    2005-present - FYI Businesses. Lead Sales Representative.
    2001-2003 - XYZ, Inc. Customer Sales Representative.
    1998-1999 - GHI Enterprises. Office Manager.
    1996-1997 - ABC Corporation. Executive Assistant to the President.
    1993-1996 - ABC Corporation. Administrative Assistant.

    - versus -

    Lead Sales Representative. FYI Businesses (2005-present)
    Customer Sales Representative. XYZ, Inc (2001-2003)
    Office Manager. GHI Enterprises (1998-1999)
    Executive Assistant to the President. ABC Corporation (1996-1997)
    Administrative Assistant. ABC Corporation (1993-1996)

As you can see, both sample employment histories (sans "work performed" information, which would be included in an actual CV) have exactly the same information. However, the second clearly focuses the reader's attention on the position and not on the dates the position was held. Though the recipient of the CV may eventually notice the gaps, he or she is more likely to be initially drawn to the work performed, a boost for the CV writer.

Be Creative in Your Work History

Yes, you had gaps; but during those stints when you were unemployed, did you sit around all day or did you help out another organisation (such as a nonprofit agency) or work as a laborer for a while just to collect a paycheque?

If you did some kind of work (even unpaid work) and hate the notion of leaving a gap on your CV, you can always creatively include those low- or non-paying "filler" jobs you held.

For instance, using the same example listed above, we can include some additional pieces in a reverse chronological technique:

    2005-present - FYI Businesses. Lead Sales Representative.
    2004-2005 - The Agency for the Aging Homeless. Volunteer.
    2003-2004 - Wholesome Food Markets. Customer Sales.
    2001-2003 - XYZ, Inc. Customer Sales Representative.
    1999-2001 - The Agency for the Aging Homeless. Volunteer.
    1998-1999 - GHI Enterprises. Office Manager.
    1997-1998 - Grand Markets. Customer Service.
    1996-1997 - ABC Corporation. Executive Assistant to the President.
    1993-1996 - ABC Corporation. Administrative Assistant.

Consequently, there will be no "gaps" in your work history, even though some may quibble and say that your work for a nonprofit does not constitute "employment". Still, you can consider that a case of semantics; basically, you're more interested in making sure that you don't have any glaring holes in your CV.In the end, it's up to you to determine your own comfort level in terms of the gaps in your employment record. Be honest, but protect yourself. Your CV has to encourage prospective employers to choose you for an interview, so self-promotion is a necessity.

Remember - gaps aren't the end of the world. Though you may have to work a little harder to shuffle your CV information and position yourself in the most positive way possible, the holes in your work history needn't prevent you from getting a lucrative position.

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