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What about the gap in my CV?

Susan* a former accountancy firm partner who stopped working when her family relocated for her husband’s job, consulted me when preparing for her first job interview in 14 years.  She feared that she had been out of the workforce for too long to be of interest and we talked through the kinds of questions she might encounter.  A few days later, Susan emailed me ‘…. he did ask “why now?” and when I started with “I have been a stay at home mum for 14 years…”  he cut me off and said, “And I think that is wonderful!  My wife is a doctor and she made the same decision when our children came along and you can see it in the quality of our children”.   It was such an unexpected vote of support — not what we read will likely occur when interviewers see the CV gap — that I thought I should share it with you.  It might help others to realise that there are interviewers who understand the choices we have made because they share the same values.’
It is so easy to believe, looking at the world of employment from the outside, that we are the only person who has a significant gap in our CV.  We tend to focus on all the things that we haven’t done to build our career while we were not working: we forget about all the skills and experience we built up before our break and those we might have acquired since we left employment.  While some employers will still be most interested in what you did before your career break and might not even ask about the gap, recent research has shown that unpaid work can improve your employment prospects.  The study, (Wilkin, C., & Connelly, C. (2012). Do I Look Like Someone Who Cares? Recruiters’ Ratings of Applicants’ Paid and Volunteer Experience International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 20 (3), 308-318) concluded that voluntary work is valued by recruiters where it is relevant to the application and that even if it is less relevant, it can complement relevant paid experience by demonstrating altruism, co-operation and a work ethic.

Think about all the activities you’ve engaged in as part of your communitiy responsibilities or volunteering and consider how they have provided opportunities to refresh, enhance and add to your experience and skills.  These endeavours are equally as relevant to your CV as roles for which you were paid – and can adequately fill the apparent gap.  One client, researched, created and managed a home education programme for her severely disabled child, co-ordinating nine different professional advisers while on a break from marketing and selling technology.  Another contirbuted her previous media experience and her organisational skills to an election campaign.  I filled my gap by becoming a trustee of an international humanitarian aid charity and Treasurer of a school PTA.  Whether we get involved in local politics, a religious community or a charity role, we are doing something of value, for ourselves, the cause, and for any future employer.

Posted by Katerina