If you have a gap in your résumé you might think that it will raise a red flag with companies or graduate schools. In fact, employers and admissions officers are less interested in the gap itself as they are about what you did during the gap – and how you’ve moved forward.

First, some tips on explaining the gap:

Practice telling your story and get comfortable doing it. Why do you have a gap in your résumé? Do some reflection to think about how you benefited from time off. Maybe it was cultural competence from traveling or time management from running a household? Identify the transferable skills you developed while out of the workforce. Develop your elevator pitch and always have an answer ready about your unique situation. Be able to deliver it quickly and with confidence.

Second, if you are currently experiencing a gap, here are four things to keep you busy:

  • Volunteer work is a great way to keep yourself occupied while adding valuable character to your résumé. You could even volunteer in your targeted industry — kill two birds with one stone. Seek out opportunities that will allow you to build relevant and transferrable skills in the industry you’re interested in.
  • Local events and conferences are a great opportunity to network and connect with other professionals near you. Have business cards with your name and contact information handy. Another option is to contact trusted individuals in your existing network and explain your situation to them. Make them your advocates and see what comes out of it.
  • Freelance, do contract work, take on side projects or keep a part-time job. Just because you’re not working full time doesn’t mean you can’t add to your résumé. Work on cultivating desirable skills and practical work experience. The extra income will also help keep you less stressed during this interim period.
  • Your personal brand is important. Polish up your LinkedIn profile, Twitter and virtual résumé to highlight your skills and attributes. Display who you are, what you do and what you have to offer. It’s also helpful to be active in a professional group on LinkedIn, so you can get noticed by industry leaders in your area.

If you have a gap in your work history — no sweat. It’s all about how you frame it and tell your story to future employers or graduate admissions officers. With the right attitude and approach, you can make the most out of your time off.

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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