5 Tips for Levelling up Your CV After a Career Gap

Wondering how to make your CV stand out after a career gap? Read this article.

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People choose to take breaks from their careers for multiple reasons such as travelling, attending to family matters, and furthering education. As a result, their CVs are often left outdated and don’t reflect the personal growth they experienced while not working full-time.

Career gaps generally don’t look good on job applications, but if you can present them in a way that highlights how you grew and developed during your gap, then you’ll be much closer to earning more interviews.

Here are five tips for writing a convincing CV after a career gap that will make employers forget that window of unemployment and ultimately get you hired.

1. List your career gap in your work experience section

Hiring managers go through hundreds of CVs every day and are trained to spot details such as career gaps. Not being upfront and listing your career gap on your CV might prompt hiring managers to assume you don’t care about your career and eliminate you before you even reach the interview stage.

Similarly, the content of your CV can be easily checked by calling previous employers, so tactics such as extending the length of your previous jobs or listing a fake job are likely to be noticed and come across as dishonest.

Employers understand that there are many legitimate reasons for a career gap, such as raising a child or studying. Instead of trying to hide your career gap on your CV, be upfront and confident about your work history by using the tips below, and any employer worth working for won’t mind.

2. Write about your career break as if it were a job

Highlighting the productive side of your career gap is a great way to capitalise on a difficult situation. For example, if you took online classes or developed a new skill, the skills you took away from these experiences can be listed on your CV.

And if taking the career break was not your choice, you can use the experience section as an opportunity to explain how losing your job or being affected by inevitable circumstances helped you improve yourself and refocused your professional goals.

A good way to describe your accomplishments is by listing the hard and soft skills you’ve gained during your career gap. Hard skills are teachable abilities that you can quantify, such as coding, video editing, and construction. On the other hand, soft skills are unquantifiable abilities learned through interacting with other people, such as communication or leadership.

Think about what you did in your career gap and what you’ve learned from the experience. If you nurtured your teamwork skills from doing volunteer work, write it down. If you practised photography and editing, write these down in the skills sections of your CV.

For example, if you took a gap to gain new skills, your section may look like this:

• Adaptability - volunteered at two homeless shelters
• Photo editing - post and edit high-quality photos on my personal lifestyle blog
• Mandarin - travelled to Taiwan and learned about a different culture
• Customer service skills - volunteered at a retirement home

3. Use your CV introduction to explain your career gap

You can also add a sentence to your CV’s introduction explaining a bit about your career gap. Explaining that your career gap was beneficial but that you’re ready to enter the workplace again will reassure hiring managers about your career goals and dedication to their company.

Here is an example of a CV objective that addresses a career gap:

A fashion designer with 4+ years of experience creating graphic designs for shopfronts and preparing technical sketches for runways. Possess a Master’s degree in fashion design and a certificate in pattern making and garment construction. I took time off my professional career to travel and learn new design techniques and styles by drawing inspiration from the places I visited.

If you can prove that you’ve learned relevant skills, immersed yourself in new cultures, or further developed your education, employers will view your career gap as a positive experience.

4. Rearrange the sections on your CV

Employers don’t have a lot of time to go through each CV thoroughly. To make sure they see your relevant experiences and skills, the strongest sections of your CV should be toward the top.

Traditionally, your work experience section goes under or next to your CV objective to showcase your professional experiences.

If you’re worried about explaining your career gap, you can rearrange the sections on your CV to highlight your skills or education sections instead. This places your professional experience further down the page and more out of sight.

Additionally, you can move your achievements higher-up. Achievements can sometimes add more value to your CV than work experience because they are concrete examples of what you have accomplished and to what capacity. You should also include quantifiable achievements from during your gap because they show that you’re results-driven even when not working.

5. Consider a skills-based or creative CV design

If you’re applying for a job in a creative industry such as fashion or graphic design, a skills-based or creative CV format can help you make your application more memorable to employers. And because these designs focus on visual aesthetics and skills, your work experience and career gap are not as emphasised.

As the name suggests, a skills-based CV design focuses on specific skills you have. This design lets you highlight all your relevant experiences rather than just professional work. If you don’t have much experience in design, you can also use free templates to get you started.

A creative CV design also acts as a portfolio and showcases personality and creativity. However, if you’re applying to more serious positions that highly value professional work experience (like those in finance or law), you should avoid skills-based and creative CV designs.

Final Thoughts

Remember that career breaks aren’t unusual. As long as you present relevant skills and experiences on your CV along with what you learned from the career gap, there’s no reason you won’t land a great job. What you’ve picked up during your career break might even be the reason you’re called in for an interview!

Author Bio

Chloe Chioy is a Staff Writer and CV Expert at Resume Genius and CV Genius. Her job advice has been featured on career platforms like Zapier and CharityJob, as well as on the BBC. 

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