Of Mums, Dads and Kids, Oldies and Sickies. Explaining Absences in Your Resume

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You know in your heart it absolutely looks awful. I’m taking about that gap in your resume where you just can’t easily explain your absence.

Did I say “gap”? The more you look at it you see a great yawning chasm with nothing to link the dates before “the event” and after.

“The Event” of which I speak can be any extended leave of absence that you feel uncomfortable in explaining and of which you would prefer, if you were less ethical, to fudge with a made-up job or a reference to the delightfully vague: Working Holiday. (An idea you dismiss reluctantly knowing that you’ll be found out one way or another).

There are many reasons for an extended absence from the world of work and frankly most of these reasons are for a pretty noble cause of which you should be justifiably proud: the birth and rearing of young children or the care of elderly or infirm parents (being just a couple).

So how do you explain “The Event” so that your resume isn’t filled with soppy personal information, nor does it look like you’ve been a couch potato staring at Days of Our Lives every day losing your entire skill base while Stefano DiMera single-handedly destroys Salem?

For stay-at-home mums and dads, there are a lot of opportunities to position your skills through your involvement in committees, parent/teacher associations, new mother’s groups, event planning, charity fundraising and the like.

What to do:

First, change the experience section heading of your resume from “Career Summary” or “Professional Experience” and instead call it: Experience, Initiatives and Results.

On top of the last job you held to cover the gap, place a heading (like a company name) that provides an overview of the type of job you are going to describe:

Here are two ideas:




Type your dates to cover the date of your absence from the workforce. For example, 2005 to Present

Next comes your position title. Consider terms such as: Fundraiser, Club Treasurer, Teacher’s Assistant, or Event Planner.

Then you could provide a brief description underneath the title:

  • Joined fundraising club and volunteered to assume Events Planner role. Gained distinction for innovative ideas, powerful advertising on a shoestring budget and uniting a team of 20 volunteer fundraisers to scout and source locations for the best collection tin points. Four events held annually were considered an outstanding success raising $10,000 to purchase play equipment for the local school.

You could even place a few bullet points underneath that to highlight different skills such as financial management, team leadership and more.

This approach could also apply if you have been advocating for elderly or sick parents; frequently people acquire a lot of knowledge about government services, care centres, finances, pensions and healthcare—probably more than they ever wanted to know, but skills and knowledge are a gift, and not always a gift we can pick and choose. Many people find themselves wanting a change of career after such experiences, as they have found new skills by gaining exposure to a whole new world.

In times of sadness, being an executor of a family member’s Will provides you with a wealth of knowledge—from financial management, through disbursement of an estate, real-estate sales, government services, genealogy research and more. Again, these experiences can provide a very compelling case for the breadth and depth of your experience when positioned strategically and confidently on your resume.

It just needs thought. Everything we embark upon, in some way or another, provides us with knowledge.

How can you turn that knowledge around to build your case for employment?


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About Gayle Howard

If you are interested in working with Gayle Howard—an executive resume writer, Certified Master Resume Writer, multi-award-winning resume writer, and Master LinkedIn profile writer, drop her a line now using the contact form at the link above. Gayle can help you get interviews for your dream job and bring the world of business to you by maximizing your exposure and connections on LinkedIn.