How to Own Your Career Gap with Confidence

 Marketing Director   May 5, 2023  Career Advice

Higher ed job seeker looking at laptop screen, thinking about how explain a career gap to a potential employer

If you’re job-searching and worried about how to explain a career gap, don’t fret. Find out how you can “own it” and explain your break from the workforce proactively and with confidence.

Let’s start with some good news: If there was ever an easier time to explain a break in your career, it’s gotta be now. Regardless of your reason, with so many people re-evaluating their professions and making changes (have you heard of the Great Resignation?), you’re not alone. And employers are less apt to view a career gap negatively if you can explain it with tenacity and give them reassurance that you’ll be there to stick around in your new role.

There have been a few surveys related to the impact of career gaps on hiring decisions, such as the LinkedIn poll referenced in this article which cites that 79% of hiring managers would hire a candidate with a career gap on their resume. There is hope!

Adjusting Your Framework: Be Proactive and Honest

To effectively explain your gap, it’s essential to come from a place of authenticity. You had good reasons for your break, and you have nothing to apologize for. With this framework, you’ll be ready to address the topic head-on vs. allowing your future employer to come up with their own conclusions.


Your resume is the first place your future employer will see the gap. Instead of leaving a span of years blank (and up for interpretation), own what you did for those years. Example:

From January 2022 to March 2023, I traveled through Spanish-speaking countries and emersed myself in the language. This had long been a goal of mine to achieve before 2025.

Depending on the reason behind your gap, you may be able to think of a fancy (or at least functional) title for your “job” during that time. My friend had a 7-year gap due to caring for her young kids. She gave herself the title of “Domestic CEO” and used bullets to list tasks that she performed related to her profession. She got the job.

A few tactical pointers:

  • If your gap is long (say 5+ years), consider changing your resume format to highlight your skills vs. line-listing work history by dates.
  • If your break away from the workforce was really long, make sure you’re up to date on the latest resume trends, and don’t accidentally date yourself.
  • For shorter career breaks, you can get rid of months on your resume and focus only on years of employment to buffer the gap.
  • For a career gap that was a long time ago (say 10+ years ago), simply take it off your resume and focus on your most recent positions.

Cover Letter

Your cover letter is a great place to tell your story and alleviate any concerns your future employer may have by highlighting all the skills you learned and strengthened during your time away. How did your professional time off make you know more of what you want to be? Due to your time off, how will you be an even better employee? Did you become an Excel pro or time-management wizard while serving as the schedule-master for your tweenagers? Perhaps you mastered project management and honed your team-building skills while organizing a memorial for a loved one. Did you take any online classes, such as LinkedIn Learning or Udemy courses? See? You didn’t stop learning! These are all things to highlight.

If your situation is more serious or personal, such as having to take time off for an illness, you can mention that and quickly shift to the soft skills you acquired that employers are interested in. For example, adaptability, communication, and problem-solving skills are all worth mentioning.

LinkedIn Profile

Another resource to consider leveraging is LinkedIn Career Breaks which allows you to proactively include your gap on your LinkedIn Profile, select a reason, and even include details about how you spent your time.

The Interview: Know and Practice Telling Your Career Gap Story

The interview portion of the application process is usually the most anxiety-ridden. But with practice, you’ll be ready when the questions come up, or better yet, you can bring up the topic before your interviewers ask. Remember you’re in charge of your story so keep the focus on your experience and how it relates to the role. Think through your situation and practice succinctly talking up the tidbits related to the position. If your gap was truly a break and not due to a compelling competing priority, think through how having the time away helped you grow. Did you volunteer? Did you have so much downtime that you were able to discover your true passion and gain clarity as to why you’re perfect for the position you’re applying for? All these experiences can be phrased to convey how your career break makes you a great hire.

Keep it short (this is not an invitation to overshare) and stay positive. If things get off-track always turn the conversation back to your relevant experience. To help you practice, tap into video resources like this one from Indeed, that show great examples of do’s and don’ts during the interview.

As you prepare for your new career adventure, don’t forget to take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of your interviewer or hiring manager. You’ll quickly recognize that they are asking about your career gap to rule out a bad hire. But you’re a good hire – so lose any negative language or fear and own it. Ensure your future employer that you’ll be here to stick around, and if you’re confident, they will be too.

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About the Author: Sara Jane Todd is a marketing and communications professional with 20+ years of experience across various disciplines and industries. Sara’s biggest passion is developing clear, concise, compelling messaging and branding—ensuring a consistent voice across all marketing touchpoints. She believes that same philosophy applies to how you market yourself.