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Explaining Gaps in Your Work History

By Jo Wibrew, Lead Lewisham Career Coach



Having a gap in your employment history can seem daunting when you feel ready to look for a new job. You’ll probably be feeling as though you won’t get a look in or wondering how you can possibly explain a (perhaps lengthy) period of unemployment to a prospective employer. However, don’t panic! There are plenty of ways you can to present any gap in the best light possible.


Firstly, you need to think about how long the gap was. If it was for a period of a few months, sandwiched between jobs, the best thing you can do is to deflect attention from this. To do this, give the dates of your employment in years, rather than months. For example, ‘June 2012 – April 2015’ becomes ‘2012 – 2015’. This is a simple trick that many use on their CV’s.


However, if the gap was longer than a few months, you’ll need to explain it. The best thing you can do here is to show that you used your time constructively and present the gap in a positive light. Even if you were off due to ill-health or personal problems, there will always be something positive that came out of it. Perhaps you completed a course, took on a volunteering role, or even just took some time to reconsider your career choices. All of these are valid reasons for career-breaks and should be talked about on your CV.


Wording is important here, as well as tone. Be truthful but keep the tone upbeat and positive. Try including something like ‘I am currently focusing on my own career development and am undertaking a number of roles in order to gain valuable experience’ before going on to bullet point the courses/roles you are doing. You can be creative here, too. Learning a language, helping your family, starting your own project or researching are all valid ways to use your time.


Generally, it is best to avoid talking in detail about any ill-health on your CV. This is something that you can discuss at interview if you want to, or if you feel your health problem may affect you in work. If you move into work and would like further advice on managing a health condition in employment, you can speak to an advisor from Remploy’s Mental Health Access to Work scheme: https://www.remploy.co.uk/employers/mental-health-and-wellbeing/workplace-mental-health-support-service-employers

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