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How to handle ‘gaps’ in your employment resume.

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That dreaded hole – the one where you were out of work for several months, or years, through no fault of your own – the glaring employment gap when a full time student as a mature adult to get through the degree faster. How do you explain legitimate absences without getting ‘dinged’ for a spotty work record?

Simply state the truth. Use words that don’t lie, but don’t push the information blatantly at the hiring manager. You want to at least get an interview to explain the gaps personally. 

Job seekers may be nervous about gaps and write a functional resume versus chronological. When asked to rewrite a chronological resume, this makes the gaps obvious.  You can use wording to fill in the missing dates on the chronological resume that would still pass muster for hiring managers.

Educational.  If you were a full-time student (formal or informal training), write that in the employment chronology and simply note, “Full-Time Student” with the dates.  Anyone looking at the resume, and the degree you were seeking, can easily do the math to relate to the full-time schedule of classes, homework, research, and/or graduate assistance work in exchange for tuition.

Volunteering.  This relates volunteerism into business experience and new skills. Strive to work behind the scenes, in administration, with the CEO’s or Board of Directors, and learn from best practices, policies, and practices. Turn that experience into how you helped the organization to achieve organizational goals and objectives.

Sabbaticals.  Educational practitioners may take a semester (or several) from their teaching obligations to perform research, write textbooks, and/or collaborate on journal articles. These sabbaticals are used to enhance academic credentials. The sabbaticals can be explained with a simple one-line bullet with a functional reason for the time off from their main career activities.

Family Management. Job seekers are in situations when a critically ill family member at home is recuperating or in their final months.  It is acceptable to note “Family Management, Caretaker for Family Member” as a job-title to explain the period out of the workforce.  Skills learned in this activity can also showcase experience by noting medical or patient-care skills learned.  Some job seekers stayed home with the kids.  The same principle applies; job skills such as activity scheduling (music lessons), sports management (little league team), team building (PTA), and time-management (which parent picks up the kids at the sitter today?) were honed on the job.

Social Lapses (prison, rehab, hospitalized).  Some career paths such as banking, financial counselors, medical staff, and government contracting positions requiring a security clearance, as well as some government service careers are permanently restricted for job seekers with prison terms or short- or long-term substance abuse.  But there are other positions in the working world that will be open to hiring those with ‘checkered pasts.’ Some industries don’t need squeaky-clean histories to be able to still perform the skills and tasks needed. They are not all ditch-digging jobs, but may still require education and training to perform. It would be practical to simply note time in prison, rehab, hospitalization as, “Non-Career Relevant Activities” and explain the gaps in the job interview.

Consulting / Freelance / Temp Work.  If a job seeker is laid off, and has to freelance or get a temp job to put food on the table, it’s acceptable to note those activities.  If you are in middle- to executive management, it would be more socially acceptable to note current employment as ‘private consulting.’  This implies still working within the industry and using business connections to keep current.  If administrative or temp work, the job seeker is possibly learning new technologies, new skills, and gaining new work experience.  Information technology geeks seem to be able to perform, and find, freelance work all the time.  Note how many clients are being serviced or the type of special work being done to enhance the portfolio of capabilities.

Best practice is to write simple, concise data and highlight job skills learned during those gaps in the resume. Note newly learned skills, relevant experience, achieved knowledge, enhanced training capabilities, and what was accomplished during the learning ‘gap’ to enhance your candidate desire-ability to future employers.


Dawn Boyer, Ph.D., is the owner of D. Boyer Consulting – providing resume writing, social media management, business development, and human resources consulting. Reach her at: or



Dawn D. Boyer, Ph.D., has been an entrepreneur and business owner 13+ years, with a successful business in Richmond (1980s), currently in her own consulting firm, and a business partner with her husband in Virginia Beach, VA.  Her background experience is 22+ years in the Human Resources field, of which 11+ years are within the Federal & Defense Contracting industry. She is the author of 46 books on the topics of business and career search practice, genealogy, family lineage, and quotes for self-improvement (2,000+ & 3,000+ series).  Her books can be found on under Dawn D. Boyer.


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Growth in women's share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations declined to 27% in 2011from a high of 34% in 1990. While women make up nearly half of the workforce, they were 26% of the STEM workforce in 2011.

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