MIND THE GAP!

I didn’t get to where I am today without a few bad decisions. Bad luck played its part. And would I be human if I hadn’t suffered some debilitating mental health issues along the way?

We all have our reasons (not excuses) for the parts of our CV we wish we could hide from prospective employers. Those few months or even years you just hope they don’t ask about. Redundancy. Travelling. Raising your family. Caring for a loved one. Depression. Anxiety. Global pandemics.

Sometimes, stuff just happens right?

As I said, I’ve had my own share of employment gaps including the time I resigned without a job to go on to (not recommended). I have been incredibly fortunate for the most of my career, to have been supported by my employers. But there are gaps, I just know how to present them. Since covid-19 there’s a whole new reason for awkward spaces between respectable jobs and education entries on your CV. The important thing to remember is, everything that’s happened makes you, you. We shouldn’t be ashamed of any of it. But if you’re worried that the gaps in your CV make you look undesirable to employers, these tips can help:

1. SMALL GAPS

If the gap is less than one month and it’s within the same month, there’s no need to do anything. You should only be stating the month and year of your employment anyway so no one reading your CV would notice 1-4 weeks out of work.

2. REDUNDANCY

This word makes me instantly empathetic. We are told to avoid any negativity in application documents but if you’ve suffered a significant gap in employment due to redundancy, there is no better way to explain it than the truth. Include the relevant months and state ‘Job seeking due to redundancy’.

3. RAISING A FAMILY

If you took time out of employment to put your blood, sweat and tears in to raising your family then tell the world about it! People management, working under pressure, multi-tasking, problem solving and organisation are just some of the skills you develop in this role. Employers will recognise this if you are confident about it.

4. TRAVELLING

Another admirable thing to do is take some time out to discover the world, expand your mind and learn about new cultures. This can develop an understanding and inclusive nature which will be welcomed by employers. Just like with your job entries, include the months and years and state the countries you visited. Go on, show off a bit.

5. CARING FOR A LOVED ONE

There’s no greater gift you can give than caring for someone in their time of need. You should be incredibly proud of yourself. If you were forced to leave work as a result, state it clearly on your CV just like a job entry. You shouldn’t need to give too much detail because you can always expand in an interview situation.

6. STUDYING

Within your CV there should be a separate section detailing your education and qualifications. A good recruiter will cross reference this with any obvious gaps in employment so don’t worry about explaining them twice in your career history.

7. MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESS

If you’ve been forced to leave a position due to mental health issues or you’ve been delayed from seeking work, this will leave a gap in your CV. Traditional advice tells you to avoid all negativity in your application. If you only have short gaps, this may be the way to go especially if, at the time, you were also doing some self study, part time work, volunteering or caring for example.

For longer gaps we advise labelling them ‘Career break due to illness – now resolved’. You can explain a little more about this (always on a positive note) in your covering letter and highlight what you have learned and how it’s made you a more rounded and thankful individual perhaps. The ‘now resolved’ part may not feel entirely true because you might be dealing with long term issues which require lifelong medication and therapy. The important thing for an employer to know is that you have identified and deal with it. This is reassuring to them.

It’s highly likely that an employer will delve further during an interview so remember to be honest, positive and confident. Never apologise for being you.

8. SICKNESS ABSENCE

You wont need to explain this on your CV but, if you suffered mid to long term sickness with a previous employer as a result of mental health or any other illness or injury, this could come to light if you are asked to undergo an occupational health assessment. You may be asked, ‘how many days have you had off sick in the last year’. This will obviously reveal any significant absences. Again, honesty is always best. So long as can demonstrate that you’ve recognised the issues you had/have and adopted strategies to deal with them long term, people should be satisfied.

9. REDUNDANCY part II

“Why did it take you so long to find a job?”. This is more for an interview situation but if you get asked this question, think about how much work you had to do during the end of your time in the position. A prospective employer will see the value in a candidate who put their own job search on hold to ensure they left their previous business in a fit state. Other factors to consider are the condition of the job market and other constraints on your time such as family.

10. MATERNITY

Maternity leave doesn’t need to be explained if you stay within the same role and return to it.

For more advice on CVs, applications, interviews, job seeking etc. visit the Career Centre or email: employability@anglia.ac.uk.

Register with ARU Temps for part and full time temp jobs both on campus and with local employers visit: temps.aru.ac.uk and email: temps@aru.ac.uk.

Laura Kendrick