The dreaded resume gap. Traditionally this has a negative connotation, especially when the length is a year or more. Job seekers are sometimes counseled to de-emphasize dates to “hide” a gap, and be ready to explain, even defend it. Employers tend to see these seasons as indicative of unemployability, atrophied skills, or a lack of commitment.
Gen Z doesn’t think that way. The under-25 cohort will comprise approximately 27% of the workforce by 2025, and they aren’t hiding or apologizing for any resume gaps. In fact, they’re celebrating them, thereby challenging preconceived notions. They believe gaps in their resumes represent opportunities for growth like volunteering, interning, or carefully planning their next career move. Whatever the reason, Gen Z says they learn valuable skills, develop personally, and return to the workforce more focused and with greater clarity. Far from worse, they feel they are better candidates for the job.
Are they right?
Well, while they have a point, I don’t think everyone should suddenly be cavalier about resume gaps. Both sides make plausible arguments, and it’s important to consider all the facts and make the decision that works for you – your personal career and life goals, the industry you want to work in, and the specific company and position.
A Few Points to Consider
- When I paused my career to become a mom, I thought about the I’m in the staffing business; I know how employers think. However, being a parent has taught me greater levels of patience and organization than my formerly childless self could have imagined.
In turn, motherhood made me better at my job and working with my team. That’s a result of the gap in my resume.
Additionally, I returned to work more committed and invested in my career. I chose to return because I love what I do, and I missed it. In many ways, I have become a better employee.
- However, improving and broadening your skills and experience during your time away isn’t a given. If traveling for six months leads to fluency in a language that benefits your future career goals, great. Otherwise, it’s not a relevant improvement. Emotional intelligence and other soft skills may also be improved, but if it is at the expense of professional and necessary experience, fun life-detours won’t make a difference.
- Many people have career gaps. A LinkedIn survey reported that two-thirds of the current working world have some form of a resume gap. Parental leave, health, and care of a friend or family member were common reasons. Plus many people experience involuntary gaps, such as a layoff. Gen Z is more likely to take time off after graduation before entering the “traditional” job market, and more likely to quit a job to spend time traveling or reassessing before taking another position. Finally, with the upheaval caused by the pandemic, pauses in employment could be more the norm in coming years.
- Unfortunately for job seekers, employers worry, not just about atrophied skills but if you will quit your job abruptly. Will they just be replacing you in a couple of years, faced with another new hire, onboarding, and training costs? They may be wrong, but they will still consider this, and you need to recognize this can affect your opportunities.
- This one is for the employers. You need to consider changing your view as well. If you are routinely screening out candidates at the resume/entry point because of a gap, you’re doing the company a big disservice. If you’re concerned about up-to-date knowledge and skills, then test for it. Don’t assume a gap means atrophy. Far too many people have gaps in their history to limit your applicant pool to those that don’t. You’re going to miss some great people. Your hiring and interview process should be able to determine whether someone is a good employee on a quantitative basis, not an assumption.
I’m not here to quash your dreams of taking time away or trying to add to the stress of your own career situation. Far from it. I simply want to share some observations so we can all look at resume gaps in a realistic light. Don’t make assumptions or decisions based on them. There are valid points on both sides of the discussion. Ask questions. Be ready to explain. Honest and open communication always provides clarity.
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