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Explain Time Away From The Workforce On Your Resume

Take time out of the workforce

Recently, LinkedIn rolled out a feature that lets professionals who took time away from the workforce to list unusual job roles on their profiles.

These include titles like “stay-at-home parent,” “stay-at-home dad,” and “stay-at-home mom.” This feature is the first of its kind for the company because previously, users had to connect their job titles to an employer or company.

A resume gap due to homemaking, caretaking, or other personal choices are nothing to be ashamed of, and they will not hold you back from taking the next step in your career.

However, your resume or LinkedIn profile aren’t the place to share them. 

2.3 million women left the workforce during the pandemic, either temporarily or permanently, which was the impetus behind LinkedIn’s decision. In addition to parenting, there are many others reasons someone would take time away from the labor force, including personal sick leave, family leave to care for an ailing relative, or a gap year/sabbatical. Other reasons may include unemployment. 

The idea behind LinkedIn’s decision, of course, is to make it easier for professionals who have a resume gap to be able to explain to potential employers why they stepped away from the labor force. Job candidates may worry that these gaps on both LinkedIn and their resumes may halt their career trajectory. 

While it could sound appealing to add domestic and care-giving roles to your LinkedIn profile and resume, we don’t recommend it.

Describing caregiving or homemaking as if they were part of your professional history detracts from the resume’s purpose: defining yourself as an expert in your field and the right fit for the position. Your resume and online materials should be about highlighting professional achievements, not personal ones. Furthermore, even though this effort from LinkedIn aims to change biases that usually harm women, the reality on the ground is that these biases persist, even unconsciously.

How, then, can you explain time away from the workforce on your resume? Here are more effective alternatives. 

Remove months to de-emphasis short breaks away from the workforce.

If you only took a short career break of several months, you can de-emphasize this time by removing months of your position in your chronological resume. Instead, just add the years before you started in a new role. 

For instance, you could have held a job from March 2012-June 2016 and then started a new role in November 2016. So, if you remove the months here, your potential employer won’t know you had a gap at all. 

Write an executive summary at the top of your resume.

To start your resume, write an executive summary that briefly describes who you are as a professional and what key competencies you can offer to an employer. You may even list a few of your most significant skills, like project management or budgeting, to emphasize who you are.

Many recruiters do read these summaries, and painting a picture of yourself before they get into the nitty gritty of your job details ensures that you’re placing an early image of yourself in their minds.

Stay in the professional loop while you’re away.

One of the best ways to stay current in your professional role, even while you’re taking time off, is to keep one foot in the field. For instance, you could join a professional organization or become more active, freelance, volunteer, or take courses. Even if you’re not able to work full time, participation in activities like these will keep your mind active and your skills current. 

You should also list your involvement on your resume, signaling that you weren’t entirely checked out of your career during your time away.

Explain your professional gap in your cover letter, while mentioning how you stayed current in the field.

Remember that your resume doesn’t have to stand alone. If you did take a career break, you can briefly explain it in your cover letter. Don’t apologize for your time away; instead, describe what you did to stay current in your field. Mention the class, freelancing, or volunteer work you performed during your time away from the workforce. Remember, especially following the pandemic that employers are likely to be more sympathetic to a resume gap than ever before – no matter what the reason. 

Be sure to keep this explanation to only a sentence or two, and frame it as a positive for your career.

For instance: 

“While taking time off to care for an ailing family member, I bridged a gap in my data science expertise by completing a class in SQL.” 

A Resume Gap Isn’t Shameful

Taking time out of the workforce for personal or family reasons is increasingly common for both men and women. At the same time, explaining why there are gaps in your work history is necessary in applying for jobs. But LinkedIn’s new method isn’t the way to do it. Instead of listing your time away in the same way you would your professional history, re-tool your resume to focus on your skills and accomplishments in your past working life.

Make your application stand out with the help of a professional resume writer!

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