How to explain gaps in your work history

“Help! How am I going to explain the gap in my career history?”

This is a question that I have been asked many times. A concept that you probably think about more than your potential employer.

Career gaps, inconsistencies and breaks can naturally feel hard to explain. They may hold personal information you don’t want to share, or experiences that you feel are not relevant. You may feel you don’t even have an explanation for your career gaps.

There can be many reasons why career gaps can occur. Unemployment, redundancy, travel, caring for a loved one, parenthood, illness and criminal records are just some examples.

However, at Work Well we strongly believe that every experience has the potential to demonstrate a transferable skill, a personality attribute and a learning opportunity. For example, we all understand that unemployment can be a hard and mentally challenging time. But what does it show about you and your skills? Let’s see:

  • self-discipline to look for roles
  • meeting application deadlines
  • networking
  • cold calling
  • resilience
  • self stamina
  • creative thinking
  • volunteering opportunities
  • training opportunities

Experiencing a mental health problem can also be a challenging, low and scary time. There is never a bigger battle than with yourself and you are not alone, as mental health conditions are disclosed more and more within the workplace. Let’s look at what skills you might have developed:

  • reflective practice
  • self-care
  • compassion for self and others
  • mental health awareness
  • self-awareness
  • the opportunity for a career change
  • ability to ask for help
  • courage

A great tip when thinking about breaks in your career history is to remember the word gap:

  • G – what did you gain?
  • A – what did you appreciate?
  • P – what does it show about your personality?

Employers can train and teach skills, knowledge and experiences. However, they can’t train a personality, so ask yourself what did that gap in my career history give me? What did I learn? What did I do? And market that experience to the best of your ability.

A career is a journey from school and through life, full of a variety of experiences, unpaid or paid. A CV can become richer when gaps in work history have their chance to come forward and shine.

Still have questions and need further advice on career gaps? Check if you’re eligible for employment support from Work Well.

Nat Miller - Lead Career Coach

Hi, I am Nat, one of Work Well’s Lead Career Coaches. I have been with the team for 14 years and I am currently studying for an MA in Coaching at Warwick University.

Besides coaching, which I really love, I also have 3 children and I am currently training for a half marathon (as I must have so much time on my hands). I also love being part of my local community, walking the dog and I really enjoy a good Netflix series.