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career 7 min read

Understanding career gaps and how they affect your employability

By USQ 16 Dec 2019
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It used to be the case that your résumé had to show a clear and consistent employment history, where one job finished and seamlessly flowed onto the next.

Résumé gaps were seen in a negative light and as potential areas of concern to employers and HR staff. As a result, job applicants often tried to ‘cover them up’ or explain them in a way that would satisfy an employer’s concerns.

According to Sam Kilmartin, who works at USQ as a careers and employability expert, this is simply no longer the case and career gaps are actually not as uncommon as many assume.

Statistic - The national unemployment rate in Australia is 5.5% which equates to around 730,600 Australians

In fact, Sam says that because gaps in employment are more common these days, modern résumés are often tailored to present only relevant jobs rather than every single job ever held and, as a result, having gaps in your résumé is no longer the issue it used to be (yay!).

This shift in expectations reflects society’s growing acceptance of the fact that ‘life happens’. People may take time out of the workforce to travel, study, raise a family or care for others in their lives. Or, reflective of changes to the modern workforce, they may be looking for the next opportunity after a redundancy or working in contract or project roles. As regular, full-time work is becoming less common, the workforce is becoming more casualised, and more and more people are engaging in the gig economy, career gaps are becoming more common.

Statistic - 31.5% of young people are unemployed or underemployed, which costs the Australian workforce 790 million lost hours of work and $15.9 billion lost GDP each year
The nature of a contemporary workforce means that résumés will be filled with gaps – and that is OK!
Author profile of Sam

It only makes sense, then, that the negative connotations previously associated with having a career gap are becoming less ordinary.

How to handle career gaps on a résumé

Michelle from USQ’s Human Resources team suggests that when it comes to long career gaps and your résumé, it’s important to take charge of how potential employers could interpret the gap.

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'For example, a long unexplained gap could imply that you aren’t able to get a job, or that you’ve been terminated from your previous position and didn’t know how to secure another role. By explaining gaps in your employment history on your résumé or LinkedIn profile, it shows that you are in charge of your career narrative instead of letting recruiters, hiring managers or organisations draw their own conclusions or assumptions.'
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Icon of hand holding resume

Career break personal statement examples

Here are two examples of how you can address career gaps in either an interview or your résumé:

Icon of plane

‘After uni, I went travelling throughout North America. I originally planned to stay for three months but ended up staying over there for a year. It was an amazing experience and it was where I realised that I really want to work in the travel industry …’

OR

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‘After the birth of my second child, I took six months off work to spend time with both of my children while they were young. I didn’t take much time off the first time and I wanted it to be different the second time. I really loved the time we had together, but I was pleased to come back to work at the end!’

Career gaps aren't something to be ashamed of or that you need to cover up. Ultimately, it's how you used the time spent in between jobs and how you explain it to potential employers that matters. If you take into consideration all of the advice listed above and your potential employer doesn’t accept your explanation or doesn’t hire you as a result, consider that maybe you wouldn’t want to work for them anyway. It’s their loss.

Did you know that as a USQ student you can receive free, personalised career and résumé advice from qualified careers and employment specialists? You can also access this service if you’ve graduated from USQ in the last year.

Learn more about Graduate Employability and what it can mean for your future career.
Banner - Don't mind the gap

Resources:

Foundation for Young Australians (2018). The new work reality. New Work Order series. AlphaBeta, Sydney.

Scutt, D. (2018). The basic mistakes Australians make on a CV which stop them getting hired. Business Insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com.au/common-mistakes-on-a-cv-australia-2018-1