Ask LH: How Should I Describe My Career Break?

Ask LH: How Should I Describe My Career Break?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve been on a self imposed extended holiday (3.5 years) from work (I was supported by my partner). I haven’t done anything particularly exciting during this time, but I have enjoyed it a lot! I’m now looking at getting back into employment, but the large gap has been flagged by friends in the know as “bad” when it comes to recruitment. Some have even said to change employment dates on my CV. What advice do you have to make a guy in his early 30’s look more employable due to this large gap in career history? Thanks, Mr Happy

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Dear Mr Happy,

I’m a big fan of honesty being the best policy. You will never know who knows who so if you are less than honest on your CV there’s always a chance that an informal check of someone who knows someone will catch you out. I’ve been involved in interviewing and hiring for some time and every now and then I’ll see a candidate who has worked at a company where I know someone. I’ll often make an informal call to check that the employment history is accurate.

If the break was self-imposed then say it. In this day and age, people take holidays, gap years and family-related breaks. I’d note the gap in your CV and describe the reasons you took the break.

You CV should be a reflection of your strengths and why you should be hired. Focus on the positives in your experience and highlight how you can fill the role. Given your age and the break, it’s likely that the people you’ll be competing against will be a little younger than you. That can work to your advantage as some extra life experience may make you a more rounded individual and, therefore, a better candidate.


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  • You should be honest, for a variety of reasons, not least of which would be that to disguise a 3.5 year career break is going to involve at least one whopper of a lie. If it was a few months a nudge here or there might cover it, but 3.5 years is a chasm that won’t be easy to hide – so why try.

    You should, as the article suggests, provide reasons for your career break, You don’t necessarily need to be explicit – you certainly don’t have to hand out deeply personal information. Remember, at this stage this is your resume, and you’ll likely be forwarding it to several parties,, many of whom you may not have any contact with. So no need to describe the ins and outs of a ducks ass-hole. (I think that’s considered a polite phrase?)

    If you don’t have any genuine reasons then maybe have a ponder as to why you did have a break. Some employers will be concerned that you stepped off the treadmill of the corporate world and they’ll need an explanation in order to be assured that you won’t be doing it again. So give that some thought.

    Having said that, your situation isn’t a world away from return to work parents, who(m) in my experience quite often “suffer” from a lack of confidence when in actual fact they’re often perceived by employers as a prize pick.

  • I agree with davedrastic, it’s not wise to try and hide your career break and mess around with employment dates as they’re probably going to do a background check on you.

    Look into the reasons why you took the break and what you gained from it. I clearly state the reasons for my 16 month career break in my CV and it works to my advantage as it makes me stand out.

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