3 Years Gap in Career: Overcoming Resume Hurdles

Life didn’t quite follow the script, and a three-year intermission has nestled itself into your professional story. It sits there, a sizable gap on your resume, glaring back at you from the screen.

This post is your playbook for turning what seems like a career setback into a narrative of growth, resilience, and newfound purpose.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Transform career gaps into assets by highlighting any new skills, education, or projects undertaken during the break.
  • Re-establish professional presence by updating LinkedIn, reconnecting with colleagues, and participating in industry events.
  • Use creative application tools like infographics or video resumes to stand out and demonstrate your adaptability and innovation.

Are Gaps in Your Career Really a Big Deal?

Let’s cut to the chase—career gaps can make some folks sweat bullets. It’s the elephant in the room during job interviews, the tricky part of your resume you’re not sure how to explain. But, before you go down a rabbit hole of worry, let’s put things into perspective.

Once upon a time, career gaps might have been seen as red flags, waving wildly at potential employers. However, times are changing. A recent LinkedIn survey shows that more than half of hiring managers would now consider a candidate who has taken a career break. What’s more, the world of work has seen a shift. The rise of freelance gigs, the gig economy, and a greater appreciation for work-life balance have helped reshape the mindset around employment breaks.

So really, are career gaps such a big deal? Not necessarily. Like a piece of abstract art, they’re all about interpretation. If spun correctly, they might just paint a picture of a well-rounded and experienced individual.

What Challenges Might You Face Returning to Work?

Stepping back into the game after a time-out can be akin to jumping onto a moving train. There are a few curveballs you might need to catch:

  • Industry Innovations: Like a river, industries flow and change—what was relevant three years ago may be outdated now. Upgrades in technology, new methodologies, and changes in customer preferences are par for the course. Staying updated via online courses or industry journals is crucial.

  • Employer Skepticism: Let’s face it – some employers may still raise an eyebrow at a resume with a lengthy gap. They might question your dedication or worry about the need for a catch-up period.

  • Emotional Hurdles: It’s natural to feel like you’re wearing last season’s trends in a room full of fashionistas. Rebuilding confidence is essential and can be achieved through networking, mentorships, or even career coaching.

  • Logistical Logistics: (Yep, intentionally redundant for emphasis!) Stuff like updating certifications, finding child care (if applicable), or even commuting can be logistical puzzles that need solving.

Despite these hurdles, it’s important to remember they’re not insurmountable. With the right strategy, you can tackle them head-on.

How Can You Pivot the ‘Gap’ Into an Asset?

Here’s where it gets interesting. Your career gap doesn’t have to be a gap—it can be your golden ticket. It’s all about framing it as a period of growth. Here’s the scoop on spinning your story:

  • Highlight Development: Did you take courses, volunteer, or launch a side project during your break? Shine a spotlight on these experiences and how they’ve added new skills to your toolkit.

  • Tailor Your Tale: Practice the art of storytelling in interviews by linking your ‘gap activities’ to the job description. If you managed a household, talk about budgeting and organizational skills—transferable skills are always in.

  • Be Confident: Walk the walk and talk the talk. Owning your narrative with confidence can transform a perceived weakness into a testament to your resilience and adaptability.

And for the unique gem of advice? Address the gap head-on in your cover letter—not as an apology but as a showcase of proactive learning or meaningful experiences that have prepared you for the role at hand. It’s a powerful move that demonstrates transparency and maturity.

Remember, your career gap could signify that you’re rested and more focused than ever. It’s not the end of your professional story—just an interesting plot twist. Keep your head high, your mind sharp, and your narrative ready. This is just the beginning of your next chapter, and the pages are waiting to be written.

What Should You Update on Your Resume and LinkedIn?

Re-entering the workforce after a hiatus can be daunting, but with the right adjustments to your resume and LinkedIn profile, you can turn your career gap into a showcase of growth and learning.

Update Your Resume with New Skills & Experiences:

  • If you’ve taken any courses, received certifications, or attended workshops during your time off, these should definitely be included. A ‘Professional Development’ section can be a great way to highlight these.
  • Add any freelance or consulting work you may have done. This demonstrates initiative and a commitment to your field.
  • Don’t forget to mention any volunteer work. Volunteering can reflect leadership, management, and other professional skills.
  • Be sure to list any relevant skills you’ve acquired or honed during your gap, especially if they pertain to the roles you’re eyeing. Think soft skills like problem-solving or technical skills like a new programming language.

Revamp Your LinkedIn Profile to Reflect Your Current Professional Goals:

  • Start with a powerful and engaging summary that articulates who you are as a professional and what you are looking for.
  • Update your headline to not just reflect your last role, but also your future objectives. For example, “Marketing Professional seeking opportunities in Tech Startups.”
  • Get endorsements and recommendations from people you’ve worked with in the past, including any volunteer or part-time positions you held during your career break.

Highlight the Positive Aspects of Your Career Break:

  • If your gap was due to a personal project, such as writing a book or building a piece of software, use it to display your passion and commitment.
  • For those who took time off for family, you can touch upon the organizational and time management skills you refined during that period.

The Unique Tip Most Forget:

  • Create an infographic or a short video resume to accompany your application. This can showcase your creativity and tech-savviness, setting you apart from the crowd. Plus, it adds a personal touch that the hiring managers are likely to remember.

How Can You Re-establish Your Professional Network?

Getting back into professional circles may seem like a mammoth task, but with a strategic approach, you’ll find your groove again in no time.

Reconnect With Old Colleagues & Classmates:

  • Reach out personally, whether it’s through a direct message on LinkedIn or an email. A simple “I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve missed working with you and wanted to catch up” works wonders.
  • Consider organizing or attending informal meet-ups with former colleagues.

Leverage Online Platforms:

  • Join industry-specific groups on LinkedIn, participate in discussions, and share your insights. This will get you noticed and demonstrate your up-to-date knowledge of your field.
  • Follow companies and leaders you admire on LinkedIn or Twitter and engage with their content to get on their radar.

Make the Most of Industry Events:

  • Attend conferences, webinars, workshops, and networking events. Remember, it’s not just about collecting business cards but about making meaningful connections.
  • Offer to speak or conduct a workshop at these events. Sharing knowledge is a fantastic way to demonstrate your value and expertise.

Cultivate New Connections:

  • Do not shy away from introducing yourself to new people. Use platforms like Meetup.com to find events where you can meet professionals in your field.
  • Consider reaching out to people whose careers inspire you to ask for an informational interview. It’s a great way to learn and establish a new connection.

The Power of Personal Branding:

  • Start a blog or a podcast. This can be your platform to discuss industry trends, showcase your expertise, and build a following.
  • Share your experiences and what you have learned during your career gap — this can resonate with others and reinforce your professional brand.

Remember, the key to re-establishing your network is to be proactive, genuine, and patient. It’s about giving as much as you’re receiving—share your knowledge, congratulate others on their achievements, and offer your help when you can. It’s these acts of generosity and connection that will rebuild and expand your professional world.

  • Alex Mitch

    Hi, I'm the founder of HowMonk.com! Having been in finance and tech for 10+ years, I was surprised at how hard it can be to find answers to common questions in finance, tech and business in general. Because of this, I decided to create this website to help others!