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Parental leave, sabbatical, unemployment – How do you describe gaps on your resume?

When looking at today’s resumes, one thing soon becomes clear: a seemingly perfect and completely straightforward resume is becoming increasingly rare. And that’s a good thing – the trend is increasing towards voluntarily taking time off, such as parental leave or a sabbatical. After many years of hard work, this desire for time off is present in many employees – especially high-achievers who, after countless hours of overtime, and between team leader and management meetings, realize that they need a break from professional life. It doesn’t matter how you use this time or whether you only aim to take a short time off or stay away indefinitely. What does matter is how you describe those career breaks in your resume, but how to do it correctly?

How to rewrite gaps on your resume:

  1. Sabbatical

A Sabbatical is a voluntary break, which is used, for example, for longer absences. This usually involves consulting with the company, which agrees to reinstate the employee after the sabbatical (or in some cases even pay the costs proportionately). A possible description of the time could be:

“Sabbatical – private break for family and traveling”

“Voluntary break, after 15 continuous years of working, to travel to the Galapagos Islands”

“World Travel”

  1. Unemployment

Unemployment – regardless of its origin, unemployment should be explained whenever it lasts more than 3 months. Everything below is considered a typical application phase and time for reorientation, which can also be recorded and labeled – because only a few move from one job directly to the next. It’s also a good idea to list any small jobs or volunteering you may have completed during this time. It also makes sense to mention if unemployment arose through no fault of one’s own.

“Looking for a career challenge through voluntary termination”

“Actively searching for work – after layoff due to company bankruptcy”

“New career orientation. In parallel: Assistance in the family business / Freelance work as a translator”

  1. Parental leave

When a resume gap is due to parental leave, there’s hardly anything to rewrite or explain. Family planning is one of the most natural things in the world and should definitely be included. However, if you have taken more than three years, it makes sense to point out the side jobs or training you have done during that time.

“Parental leave, est. until xx.2017”

“Time off for the education of my son. In parallel: active search for re-entry into the workforce”

“Parental leave. In parallel: Further education via self-study on the subject […]”

  1. Time out due to illnesses

In the case of accidents or long-term illnesses, it is important to find a way to familiarize the HR with the situation while protecting your own privacy. No one has to explain a wrong eye laser surgery or a burnout in his resume. The less the accident or illness affects your future abilities, the less emphasis you should put on it.

“Actively seeking employment after full recovery”

“Abort of study for private reasons”

“Occupational break for health reasons, fully recovered since 10.2015”

  1. Personal circumstances

Even the sudden death of a family member or other blows can lead to gaps in a resume. The description in the resume can remain vague here.

“Voluntary termination for care of a family member”

“Time off due to family circumstances”

“Occupational break for private family reasons”

Don’t stress about a gap!

The most important thing is to always remember not to try and hide time-outs in your resume, but try to explain them convincingly.

A career break on your resume is not about explaining or justifying every personal decision down to the last detail. Rather, it is about demonstrating to the human resource manager that the decisions for a break have been made deliberately for a concrete and comprehensible reason. That way, timeouts on your resume will not get in the way of your career.

About the author

Britta Kiwit is the founder of Dein-Lebenslauf.com. The application service concentrates on putting application documents in a structured layout and bringing some continuity to the application process.