Article : Gaps in your Resume are not a setback. Justify them well

Gaps in your Resume are not a setback. Justify them well.

by Asha Nathan ,Business Development Manager ,Nathan& Nathan Human Resources 

Recruiters , are seeing an increasing number of people with gaps in their resumes’ being taken for personal or professional reasons. The reaction of the recruiter should be "neutral "waiting first to hear from the candidate the reason for the intentional gap before swaying in a "For" or "Against"motion. A genuine effort to connect the dots in terms of skill sets earned through previous work assignments, and how the break in career fuels the passion in the candidate forward should be explored during the Interview.

Taking a conventional standpoint and looking at a Resume Gap as a flaw or lack of professionalism or drive in the candidate is a negative approach. Many organizations still rely heavily on chronological soundness of work history. What guarantee does the organization have for chronological soundness to be a great performance indicator?

In many parts of the world the average gaps in resumes due to various factors tend to increase not just by days but weeks, months, even years. Employment gaps in the US are now up from an average of 28 weeks to 34 weeks. The trend in gaps across the world regardless of effects of economic environment or political environment, are on the increase. This is because of the rising awareness of WORK-LIFE balance.

So lets take a look at how should a recruiter process such information?  

Employment lay offs: In a dynamic and uncertain world, employment layoffs are common. Changes in the work environment are happening so rapidly that you find yourself from being a productive member of staff, to suddenly receiving a pink slip and being let go. The reasons are many, cost- reduction, slump in business, product life- cycle, market slowdown, increased competition and the list goes on. There should be no feelings of shame associated with such lay-offs. A good recruiter should not judge the capability of the candidate, knowing fully well that decisions an organization may take towards Growth can affect individuals or entire departments at times.

Additional Qualifications: Career Progression demands additional qualifications from most people. At times this requires a break from work to continue pursuits in education. A clear justification should be provided by the candidate , where a break was necessary to advance learning for better work opportunities. A brave and courageous professional can confidently do this as a paid or un-paid employee on a Sabbatical, the key is to continue staying connected to the organization.

Medical Illness :With the increased stress in our lives and the requirements to deliver continuously; we tend to take our health for granted. A day would eventually come when our bodies would reject this continuous work option. Employee Burnout is common in organizations. A complete or partial breakdown would have consequence on work and personal life. Most often a short break can help heal us, rarely a significant career break may be the only answer. With the rise of terminal illnesses we find people returning back to work after treating cancer, or heart conditions.

 Being truthful about such experiences can help the recruiter to understand you better. No two people doing the same job in the same organization can have the same resulting effect. Each of one of us are unique. Recruiters should not take a generalist view -point but search to find out the strength and weakness of each candidate for each given circumstance of their life. For example re-hiring a cancer survivor cannot in principle have same consequences, some may cope well others may not. But the opportunity has to be extended to begin with.

Family Responsibilities :Responsibility towards family plays an important part. It could be even more necessary if you are the only child for your parents, then it weighs on heavy on your conscience to take responsibility to a greater extent. A commitment to ensure completion of a house or maybe, set right a family business , may require a break from work for a few months or in the rare occasion a couple of years. The candidate being interviewed should prove how well he honed his skills during those years when he had to set right the issues at hand. This is common amongst men across the world who sacrifice corporate careers to take care of their own parents business or the business of the in laws. There usually would come a time when they would want to get back to their corporate careers.

Gender Related : Motherhood in today’s world puts a lot of pressure on women to balance home and work .The continued pay cheque to balance financial matters stands tipped, when a woman decides to quit. For some it could be a clean break, over an extended period of time. To ensure good upbringing of children up to a certain age would translate to years away from work, before making the decision to get back.

Recruiters need to read this data without being Judgmental about level of proficiency, due to the employment break. Women who have invested heavily in their education, start to raise up kids with a sense of guilt , they look at time spent with raising children as non-productive. It is organizations who should start placing value on educated women who intentionally sacrifice their career for the noble effort of raising kids who are tomorrows workforce.

Work Sabbatical : For some work sabbaticals come as an offering from their organizations. This is especially true for people in the field of education. The offering could be paid or un-paid. They use these periods of time to professionally develop themselves with learning opportunities that are available, or even try their hand at entrepreneurial projects, that they have been holding onto as Dreams. Recruiters should avoid any negative outlook on failures of projects if any during such times. But instead identify the enterprising spirit that is existent, in a candidate.

Today organizations offer UNPAID LEAVE so as to encourage everyone in an organization to share the financial burden of low economic periods.

Travel: Work for some turns out to be a prison . A perfect escape , from such mental prisons, are justified by Travel. A good holiday can take you to another dimension to relax and unwind , in the process as quoted by Steven Covey “To sharpen your Saw “as well, that can bring you back in a totally refreshed mental state. Work on set up of large companies over many years can take a toll on your mental fitness. A clean break and the need to get away from it all is deemed necessary at times. A student in a Masters program sometimes takes a 6 month break between completing his studies and taking up a new work assignment.On the relational front a divorce could cause you to take a break from work. Reasons are many and again the candidate should not feel ashamed in stating his reason for taking a legitimate break.

Wellness:Yoga and a range of wellness programs provide alternatives for us to indulge in either detoxification of our bodies or working towards an entire new dimension of our whole body experience. This could vary from a short to a long-term possibility and depending on your drive and requirements. Especially in today’s day and age it is imperative for the current generation to at most times to indulge in wellness programs either during their current ongoing commitments or by taking a break from the routine from a short or medium or long duration.An injury from work could also cause a break in career to take the time to heal. Occupational Hazards are common.

Sports:Being an ardent sportsperson requires not just dedication day in and out but commitment and preparation for competition may require for you to take a break from routine work and fully immerse yourself working towards your achievement .A goal to climb the Himalaya’s is not something to shy away from or not include in your resume. Time spent on such achievements go a long way , in telling your level of purpose and determination that is existent in you. They should be included in your resume.

What ever the reason or rationale to take a short, medium or long term break, your resume and career history should most definitely reflect them. Research indicates that being truthful and honest with the right approach provides the much-needed justification to answer the question of the gap. Dis- honesty and modification of the resume to project your self as your preferred proto type can create more set back than any. Reference letters attached can help the recruiter understand you better.

A break in the physical sense of things would mean “Not the same Again”with the hidden connotation of being "less than before", understanding it from a human perspective should mean ‘Better than Before “

 In conclusion being honest is vital to building the right profile to quote Steven Covey again” I am not a product of my circumstances, but a product of my decision.” So go ahead be brave and and justify the gaps in your resume. Good Luck 

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