Closing Gaps on Your Resume

Many people have gaps on their resumes due to relocation, career changes, layoffs or raising a family. Even though you may have frequent or long periods when you weren't working as a paid employee, you can adjust your resume to explain the gaps in a positive way.

Create a resume highlighting your strengths and minimizing the gaps. Usually, gaps of a few months are not an issue. However, you should explain longer periods away from the workplace.

Redefine the gap

Start by listing your activities and accomplishments during your time away from the workplace. Examples might include the following:

  • Volunteering for a nonprofit agency, an athletic program or your child's school
  • Volunteering as an intern to gain upward mobility training and experience
  • Introducing new spouses to the area or new members to your organization
  • Coordinating command and community events
  • Developing brochures, newsletters or social media outreach communications to promote organizations and activities of interest
  • Mentoring, coaching and helping others set and reach their goals
  • Attending classes or seminars for personal growth and professional development

Describe how your activities relate to your current employment goal by highlighting your successes and relating duties you have performed and skills you have learned to the potential position. If you planned a move, located living quarters, settled your family, found doctors, restaurants and schools and built interpersonal relationships, you could highlight your organizational, interpersonal and planning skills. Show examples of marketing, sales, communications, money management or writing skills you have learned through owning a home business or writing a personal blog. If you have used high-demand software programs, be sure to highlight those skills.

Once you've organized your skills and abilities into categories, you can associate them with a job title. For example, if you helped promote nonprofit events, volunteered at school fundraising functions and contributed articles and content to newsletters or websites, you might use a 'Marketing Specialist' title to explain the work you've done during the gap.

Use the Self-Exploration section of the Career Exploration lifecycle stage on MySECO to find SECO self-assessments that can help you match your skills to titles that might fit into your resume. In addition, you'll have the added bonus of learning more about yourself and your potential employment opportunities by taking an assessment.

Adjust your resume

You can format your resume to make gaps look less striking. Some tips include the following:

  • Consider a functional resume format. Functional resumes focus on your skills and experience, rather than the chronological order of your employment history.
  • List years and not months when writing your work history. Do not be tempted to stretch or lie about dates to cover gaps between positions.
  • Title your sections appropriately. If you plan to use unpaid or volunteer position titles, label your employment section header 'History' or 'Experience' instead of 'Professional Experience' or 'Employment History.'

Avoid future resume gaps

Continue to build your resume by volunteering, gaining additional education or certifications and improving skills between jobs. Target your efforts toward your possible career goals and track tasks, successes and accomplishments until you have found employment.

Don't let resume gaps keep you from finding a job. Learn how to turn your volunteer experience and skills into career experience on your resume using the Blue Star Families Employment Toolkit. Revamp your resume using suggestions in this article and request a resume review from a career coach at 800-342-9647. Visit MySECO to find additional information on all aspects of your job search.