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Job Hunting? How to Explain Employment Gaps on Your Résumé

In the news lately is a LinkedIn initiative designed to clarify to potential employers that maternity leave—whether it lasts five months or five years—is not an extended vacation (although we’re told frequent toplessness and staying up all night does happen in Ibiza). Still, whether you’re revamping your résumé or sitting down for interviews (extra awkward if you’re hoping to be hired by a 26-year-old single dude), it’s tough to know just how to explain employment gaps. While studies suggest being straightforward about is best, here are some tips, sound bites and spin to amp up your confidence and help hone your message. Now go get ’em, tiger mom. 

RELATED: 8 Things You Should Never Put on a Résumé

1. Don’t get cute

Writing “Domestic Engineer” or “Family CEO” on your résumé is unnecessarily cheeky at best, confusing at worst. 

2. Organize your résumé by category—not chronology

Group your experiences by type (Professional, Educational, Volunteer), not timing. This takes the focus off any extended periods of unemployment and puts it where it belongs: on your expertise.

3. List relevant experience only  

Talk up any volunteer or freelance work you've been doing outside an office—but only if it relates to the job you want. So you recruited parent-readers for your kid’s school library? Mention how you tapped into your management background to wrangle them. If you volunteered at your local food co-op and want a job in hospitality, there’s your farm-to-table talking point. But if an unpaid experience—no matter how dear to you—feels random, leave it off your résumé. 

4. Project confidence 

To quote the patron saint of not giving any F---s, Kate Moss: “Never complain, never explain.” In interviews, be transparent—but brief—about why you switched gears. (“I decided to stay home for a while because it was best for my family.” Over and out.) Then pivot to how ready and excited you are to be getting back to work, ideally for THIS SPECIFIC COMPANY. Remember: Parents are laser-focused prioritizers, expert multitaskers and nurturing mentors. If you decide to make that case, mean it. Never (ever) apologize for staying home. 

5. Network like you never left

Invite old colleagues for coffee and ask lots of questions (then drop their names with abandon). Attend seminars and conferences. Watch TED talks. Take courses to catch up on technological advances. (Then say: "How did we even communicate before Slack?!") Read industry gossip. In short, do all the things you used to do to kill time at your desk or because your IT department made you. These far-from-the-sandbox situations are breeding grounds for résumé filler and interview ice-breakers. Convince yourself you still belong in your business and you’re halfway to convincing someone else.  

Related: 9 Secrets of Moms Who Master Work-Life Balance

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