Effectively Address A Gap Or Change In Careers On LinkedIn, Your Resume And In A Job Interview
Whether you dramatically changed careers, such as a jump from Lawyer to Software Developer, or you took significant (more than a few months) time off to care for a loved one, there are many ways to address these situations positively to a future employer and we are going to show you exactly how to do that.
Before we dive in, it is important to note that you are not alone. Many people have experienced a period of unemployment or pursued a dramatic career change at some point during their careers. Below are the most common reasons you may have a gap in your career:
- Raised a family
- Cared for ailing family members or a personal illness
- Pursued a volunteer opportunity or passion
- Concentrated on furthering your education
- Relocated to a new state or area
It is also normal to feel worried about how an experience gap or change in careers may be perceived by potential employers, but it is also important to understand that this does not diminish the value you bring to the table. No matter what the reason, being clear and honest about your unique situation and showing your dedication to the job moving forward will be well-received by most employers and if it isn’t, then you probably don’t want to work there any way.
How To Explain a Career Change Or Gap On LinkedIn
While you certainly are not required to show a career anomaly on your LinkedIn profile, it can ease concerns that may otherwise have prevented a recruiter from reaching out to you. There are two areas that you can address these changes on your LinkedIn profile.
1. About Section
This section is great for painting your unique story. If you battled cancer, took a hiatus to immerse yourself in other cultures, or whatever you did that took you away from the “normal” career trajectory create your narrative around it here. Focus on how these experiences helped you grow and carve you into the success you are today. It is also important to include that you are now more focused on your career moving forward.
This section is also great for explaining a jump from one job area to another. If you made a big leap in careers this is a great section to explain why. Describe how you found passion and motivation in this new role and what you did to achieve the skills required for the work you are pursing now.
2. Experience Section
There are several ways to leverage this section for explaining career changes or gaps but it is important to note when you should divulge this information. If the gap was only for a few months, then it is best to just change your career timeline to years vs months and years. Here’s an example of two ways to record the same work experience:
|January 2019 – July 2019||2019-2019|
As you can see, there appears to be no gap when only documenting the years spent in a position.
For a gap that is larger, we recommend one of two options. The first option is to document what you were doing during that time as its own experience. This works best for gaps due to:
- Higher education – You should detail any initiatives or organizations you were a part of during this time.
- Volunteering – You should include the work you were doing as it relates to the career you are pursuing now, such as managerial skills, budgeting, teaching, etc.
For gaps due to relocation or caring for yourself or family, these are best left out of the Experience section all together and rather explained in the About section referenced above.
How To Explain A Career Change On A Resume
Explaining career changes or gaps on your resume follow many of the recommendations for how to effectively address these scenarios on your LinkedIn profile. The big difference is the sections you use:
- Your cover letter aligns with your LinkedIn About section
- Your resume aligns with your LinkedIn Experience section
You can (and should) use your cover letter to address:
- Why you made a leap from one career to another
- What you were pursuing during long gaps in your resume
Similar to the LinkedIn recommendations above, your cover letter should create a brief narrative of these experiences and how they directly relate to making you the best candidate for this position.
For your resume, you should incoprorate:
- Year timelines to close small employment gaps
- Experience that relates to the current position you are pursuing but was achieved through non-traditional work such as higher education, full-time volunteering, etc.
- Experience from seemingly unrelated positions that directly tie back to the new career you are pursuing. For example, you may have years of experience in Marketing but are now trying to pursue work in Software Development, your Marketing experience probably includes market research, user testing and other skills that would directly relate to a role in Software Development and these should be highlighted on your resume.
Again, the goal is to use these experiences to relate back to how they formed you into the person you are today, which happens to be the best person for the job you are applying to.
How To Explain A Career Gap In An Interview
Interviews can be daunting, especially when you know you will need to address the elephant of a big career change or gap in employment. We have two suggestions for how to handle this situation:
- Be the first to address it
- Answer with confidence
If you referenced a gap on your resume or LinkedIn profile or you are applying for a job in a completely different field, you already know you will be asked about it, so be the first to address it. Most interviewers tend to kickoff an interview with “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” This is an opening to address potential anomalies in your resume and showcase how these experiences prepared you to be the best candidate for the job. Don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on a gap or career change but do address it and move on to your interest in the role, your skills and your motivation to succeed.
Now, just because you addressed it early on you should still anticipate questions regarding your unique experience. Specifically, expect questions regarding how you maintained your skills during a hiatus or how you built up skills in a completely new career area. Also, while you should not be asked specifically about your personal life and how it will affect your work, if you took time off to care for a family member or because of relocation you want to show that these reasons do not apply for the foreseeable future and won’t affect your performance in this new role. For instance, if you had an employment gap because of an ailing family member but you have now set up in-home care service to support that person you can mention that as your current situation to provide reassurance that you are fully committed to this new role.
Are You Considering A Career Move?
We offer multiple workshops each month discussing a variety of topics such as how to make a career change or information about specific job fields. Join us for an upcoming session that relates to the move you want to make!