How should you explain gaps in your résumé and work history?

Career Development and Job Search Tips

I spent the better part of ten to fifteen years as the at-home parent for (eventually) four girls. During that time I was also a WordPress and open-source freelancer, a volunteer and board member on a lot of cooperative neighborhood projects, a home renovator, a property manager, and an unschooling facilitator.

In a lot of ways, those were my best years — time with my kids and personal projects when I’d not yet faced or had a diagnosis for a progressive disease. But it doesn’t mean anything as “work” on a résumé.

How have you handled “gaps” in your work history? The time you were a full-time at-home parent or caregiver for an older relative, the time you were caught up in a medical crisis — you fear it’s illegible (or worse, a black mark) to the more bloodless, mechanical types of HR people looking at your résumé

My “employer” from that period has appeared on my LinkedIn profile at times as the “Four Sisters Anarchist Collective.” I don’t know if that entertains or pushes away the right people, but it is certainly a time I’m proud of. It was deeply instructive and influential, and also fully part of the “shadow economy” we know well in open source — where you create shared value to give it away for free. In a DGAF version of my résumé I would lay that out openly.

Maybe that’s the one I should write.

Some good tips I’ve found recently:

  • Kyle Maurer has some great approaches to explaining gaps in work history in this episode of the always-good Get Options Podcast.
  • LinkedIn allows gaps in your career to be noted now. Is that a good or bad thing? Liz Ryan took a poll on these changes and the responses are pretty evenly divided. The comments are worth a look.

Also worth reading:

Tell us your experiences on the job market dealing with an employment “gap” on your résumé. Leave a comment ›

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