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How to Address Gaps in Your Career

More than 62% of employees have taken breaks in their career. More than 30% want to take a career break at some point.

There are many reasons for taking a break. You may need a break for stress leave. Or you may be travelling or welcoming a child or dealing with life. Whatever the reason, breaks are a normal part of the career cycle.

Taking a career break is natural, but restarting your job search can be stressful. There are ways to make it easier to find a job after you’ve taken a break.

What is the impact of career gaps?

A 2022 LinkedIn survey of 7,000 hiring managers showed that 1 in 5 recruiters reject job seekers who take career breaks. This statistic sounds scary, but it doesn’t mean there’s no hope for your career search. It’s important to understand why recruiters might frown upon career breaks. This will help you position yourself in a favourable light.

A recruiter’s job is to find quality talent, and hiring is an expensive process. Hiring people who are likely to stay with a company for the long term provides the best return on investment. That’s why some recruiters get nervous about career gaps. They see gaps as an indication that the candidate might soon move on.

But not all recruiters have this bias. In fact, some recruiters recognize that employees who take a break come back to the workforce refreshed. They come back clear about the type of work they want, and they’re often equipped with unique skills they’ve developed in their time off.

It’s valuable for recruiters to take a chance on candidates who’ve taken a break. But it’s also important for candidates to position themselves in a way that builds recruiters’ trust in their capabilities.

How to present career gaps in a positive light

Understand what recruiters are looking for

Building recruiters’ trust starts with understanding what recruiters want to know about the gaps in your career.

Here are 5 key things recruiters will look for:

  1. What was the reason for your career gap?
  2. Did you learn any skills during your time off?
  3. Are you planning to take more career breaks?
  4. Why do you want to restart your career in their organization?
  5. How can the experiences from your time off benefit their organization? 

Clear communication is what’s most important here. Making sure that your resumé, cover letter, and application address recruiters’ questions will set you up for success.

Organize your resumé

The main goal of your resumé should be to highlight the value you can bring to a company. Choose a functional resumé structure to avoid drawing attention to potential negatives such as career gaps.

A functional resumé focuses on skills, personality traits, and professional accomplishments instead of job roles. Focusing on skills gives recruiters a better idea of what you can offer long term.

A functional resumé has the following flow:

  1. Personal information such as name, address, phone number, and email address.
  2. A short summary or objective to catch the recruiter’s attention.
  3. Skills that are related to the role. Include both core skills and work-specific skills. If you have any credentials that prove your skills, list them here too.
  4. Professional experience. If you have any volunteer experience, include it here too.
  5. Education, starting from the highest credential.

Structure your cover letter

For every job you apply for, a customized cover letter will increase your chances of landing an interview.

Writing an effective cover letter is one of the most important steps you can take to sell yourself. Your cover letter is the first thing recruiters will see. It can win recruiters to your side before they notice the career gaps in your resumé.

The secret to writing a cover letter that recruiters love is in the way you position yourself. You need to show the company why they need to hire you, not why you need to be hired. This shift in mindset will help you get noticed. And it will help you land an interview.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you write your cover letter:

  • What skills are the employer looking for? What accomplishments do I have that match these skills?
  • What did I learn during my time away from the workplace? How would these lessons add value for the employer?
  • Why would the company be lucky to have me on their team?

Go the extra mile

Some recruiters get thousands of applications for a single job posting. Taking an extra step to get noticed can help them choose you.

Here are some steps you can take to stand out from the crowd:

  • If you’re on LinkedIn, send a message to recruiters to let them know you’ve applied.
  • If you’re comfortable doing it, send a personalized video with your job application. You can use free tools like Vidyard to record your video. Vidyard will notify you when your video has been watched.
  • Follow up on applications if you haven’t heard back. Following up will keep you at the top of recruiters’ minds and show your dedication.

Tip

If you need support for your workplace re-entry, connect with one of the free employment programs in Alberta.

Be confident in your approach

Despite the old-school view of career gaps, taking a break from the workplace can be a valuable experience. And your next employer can benefit too.

Whatever your reason for taking a break, remember that recruiters value transparency and great communication.

Be confident about re-entering the workforce, prioritize clear communication, and position your career gaps in a positive light. Don’t get discouraged about finding work again. If you’re persistent, you’ll be successful.

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