Why You Should Not Have To Explain A Gap On Your CV
Last week, a post from LinkedIn Influencer, James Caan (no, not the actor) caught my attention. It was titled, “How To Explain A Gap On Your CV”. Having ample said gaps myself, I clicked through to read. Right off the bat, it leads with the statement that being asked about gaps in your job history during an interview is “everybody’s worst nightmare”.
“Worst nightmare”, I thought. What a strange, and yet, unfortunately common viewpoint that people have about not working for 50 straight years. If one has not stuck to a tried and true timeline from university to career to retirement – why should we label this as a negative path – a black mark on one’s resume? Is there nothing to learn out in the world that does not come with a paycheck or a pension? I say do not hide these resume black holes – but pull them into the spotlight and let employers know why you have chosen, followed, or even been dragged down the road less travelled – because every journey has a lesson to teach. People that take risks, push, fall, fail, change directions, pivot, adapt, learn and grow – are the ones I want on my team – more prepared than those that have walked a straight line, head down, always moving cautiously forward.
When I started school – I had no idea what I wanted to do. College seemed overwhelming. I bounced from major to major, finally quitting short of my degree. Then, after a couple of years of doing production work, reporting to someone and meeting deadlines – school suddenly seemed simple. I went back and plowed through 60 credit hours and an internship in one year to earn my BFA. Before working, I was lucky to complete 12 credit hours a semester. But stopping and gaining perspective on what it meant to work 40+ hours a week suddenly made my path to a degree clear and actionable. I like to think of most career gaps as taking time to climb to a highpoint and looking at the road ahead to understand where you are going.
Since college, my path has had many unexpected and self-initiated turns that also read as gaps. It includes the dot.com crash, tough economic turns, joining the Peace Corps – and in each one of these – I have found a way to adapt, learn and grow. There is no ad agency I could have worked for in my career that would have taught me as much as the experience of moving to a third-world country I had never been to and taking on a job I’d never done, in a language I could barely speak. We need to celebrate these experiences, not hide them.
People that push themselves in new endeavors, or face hardships that they overcome, have earned those experiences, and the knowledge that comes with it. In most cases, they are better people, and employees for it. So next time you are interviewing someone and do not see a gap in his or her work history – I’d suggest you ask them why not?