How to Describe a Career Break Gap In Your Resume


The decision to return to work shouldn’t get derailed at the first step: updating your resume. Many job seekers aren’t sure how to present time off from a full-time career while raising a family, caring for an aging parent, or not working in your area of expertise for other reasons, such as military service. So how do you address the time off so employers focus on your potential and not the gap?

First off, there’s good news. Career gaps are becoming more common. Between COVID-19’s ongoing impact on so many careers, recognition from employers of the importance of family caregiver roles, and the reality that businesses face downturns, organizations are more accepting that the best candidates may not have smooth, linear career journeys.

Don’t hide it. Employers notice career gaps on resumes, especially if you have been out of work for several years. But a career break shouldn’t be a career breaker™! The key is to present your career gap honestly, so your aptitude and attitude shine through.

We recommend your resume be a true and honest presentation of your experience and skills and that means acknowledging your time away from a full-time career. There’s a temptation to fill career gaps on resumes by expanding work start and stop dates or supplying details of volunteer and part-time roles. We’ve found that it’s more likely an employer will call you if they know how you’ve spent your time during a career break, whether you were a stay-at-home-parent, caregiver for a sick relative, in military service, or a freelancer.

We recommend you place the break reason at the top of your professional experience section before your last work role. Here’s some sample wording and format to communicate your break:

Career Sabbatical to be a Caregiver, 9/15-present
Career Break to Raise my Family, 6/12-present
Pregnancy Pause, 2/18-present

Simply listing the break communicates to the employer that you were purposefully not working instead of making them wonder if you were unable to find a job.

Did You Work a Little? If you were working a little during your break to keep busy or contribute to the household finances, gather similar experiences under one heading so it doesn’t appear that you frequently moved jobs. Highlight a few related professional achievements focused on results. You don’t need to list everything you did only share what is relevant to the role you are seeking or that demonstrates a skill. Here’s a sample:

Part-time Freelance SQL Programmer, 9/15-5/19
• Created ordering app for a small grocer, helping to increase sales by 10%
• Reworked a user experience in two days to meet new product launch

Independent Sales Contractor [Avon, Amway, Rodan & Fields, etc.], 11/17-present
• Expanded territory by 30%, up-sold customers, and won annual sales award

Ready to get started? At reacHIRE, we partner with progressive companies who rely on us to find and encourage people to return to work after a career break. We work with you to bring out your skills and confidence and provide you with a community of people returning to full-time employment. Check out the positions we have open and if nothing suits your skills, sign up for our newsletter, so you’ll be the first to know when your dream job is ready!