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Job search over 50: How do you explain a gap in your CV?

Article by Ceri Wheeldon

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There can be many reasons why you may have a gap in employment. The most extreme case I encountered in my headhunting career was asking a candidate for a job to explain an 8 year gap earlier in his career – he very calmly told me that he had been in prison – for murdering his wife!

I had mixed thoughts on that one – 1) I had just shaken the hand of a murderer. 2) 8 years didn’t seem like a very long sentence for murdering someone, 3) He had paid his debt to society so should I even judge?  I have to admit that it was one of the few occasions during interviews that I was at a loss for words!!

With most gaps in CVs being for far less dramatic reasons, I always say you have to ‘own’ the gap.

‘Own’ the gap in your CV!

If you have a gap in employment do not try to dismiss and leave a gap in your chronological career history. Instead be up front about the gap but present your activities at that time in a way that enhances your skills and employability.

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During the pandemic many have found themselves redundant with very limited opportunities in respect to finding another role. Be open and honest about your situation, but emphasise the positive things you did during this time. Did you take courses to upskill/reskill? Did you take on any voluntary activities? Did you focus on your fitness after years of commuting /travelling on business with little opportunity to do so. Emphasise the constructive ways in which you have spent this time and how this investment in you will benefit an employer moving forward.

If your career break was to raise a family, be open about it. Stress that it was a considered choice and highlight the skills you acquired during that time: improved organisational abilities, keeping up to date with online trends and social media, voluntary/committee roles undertaken, meeting multiple deadlines etc.

Perhaps you rewarded yourself following a hectic career with an adult gap year. We are working for longer – careers are now spanning 50 years or more in some cases, so taking time out to reset and recharge is not necessarily a bad thing.  Just be open and honest about it.

Don’t view your gap as a negative- think of the positive aspects and turn it into an advantage as you move forward confidently and positively.

Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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