How to Talk About Resume Gaps After a Career Break, with Elena Giorgetti

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Have you taken time off to care for children, elderly parents, or your own mental or physical health? If you’re afraid this gap will negatively affect your job search, you needn’t worry, says Find Your Dream Job guest Elena Giorgetti. Elena explains that employers care more about what you did during the gap than the gap itself. If you present the skills you gained and the value the time away added to your career journey, you can be confident that your career gap won’t hurt your chances of scoring that dream position you’re going for!

About Our Guest:

Elena Giorgetti is a career coach who specializes in transitions, emotional intelligence, and mental health.

Resources in This Episode:


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 415:

How to Talk About Resume Gaps After a Career Break, with Elena Giorgetti

Airdate: September 6, 2023

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

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You may be in the workforce for 40 years or longer.

And you’ll likely stop working to care for family, go to school, or for other personal reasons.

Elena Giorgetti is here to discuss how to talk about resume gaps after a career break.

She’s a career coach who specializes in transitions, emotional intelligence, and mental health.

Elena started her career as a recruiter in a Fortune 500 global consulting firm. She’s worked in Europe and Canada.

She joins us from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Well, let’s get started, Elena. What are common reasons for resume gaps after a career break? Why do these gaps exist?

Elena Giorgetti:

Yeah, there are definitely different types of career breaks, and as you mentioned, Mac, you can take a break to raise a family, or to pursue further education, to travel, or take care of yourself if you experience burnout or other health issues. You could also take a break because you’re moving from one country or state to another.

In my case, for example, I came from Italy to Canada, and I had to take a break during that time. But that’s perfect physiological, and no matter the career break, the first thing that you want to think about is that career breaks or resume gaps are more common than we think. And especially after the pandemic, there’s been a lot of people taking some time without having another job lined up.

Though, when we talk about career breaks, usually what I see is that the general concern among employees is that employers can see them as red flags. But really, career breaks can be part of your personal and professional story. So the most important thing is to own your career breaks and see them as something unique. Something that, if you address effectively, it can be something that can add to your professional story.

Mac Prichard:

And I want to talk about how to tell that story in a moment, Elena. Let’s back up to employers. Do you, in your experience, find that employers do see career breaks as red flags? And if they have in the past, is it changing now?

Elena Giorgetti:

Yeah, having been a recruiter myself, I would say that a career break is rarely a deal breaker. But I would say that not being transparent about it can actually be a deal breaker for sure. So, if I can think about someone who is not being upfront or honest about their career break, and I find out after hiring this person that they had something that was not revealed during the interview process, for example, that would be a deal breaker in terms of really impacting the decision that has been made.

And so, it’s definitely something that you want to bring up during the conversations that you’re having with hiring managers so that you can be positive and also explain concisely that you had a career break, and those were the reasons. But at the same time, you also want to highlight what you gained through that career break.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned a moment ago that sometimes candidates – they’re concerned that an employer might see a career break and think of it as a red flag, and you’ve found in your work as a recruiter that’s not the case unless somebody isn’t forthright about it.

Why wouldn’t someone talk about a career break if they understood it’s not a red flag? What else might be going on there?

Elena Giorgetti:

Well, definitely, there is a confidence issue. Right? People think that showing a career break or a gap in their experience would probably tell employers that they were not in the workforce for so long, and so they are not up to date with their skills, or they don’t have relevant experience that can be really transferred to the job that they are interviewing for, that they’re being considered for.

But let’s think about what matters to employers. I think I really want to make a point here. Hiring someone is a risk, as we know. And it takes a lot of time and effort to find the right person, and when they are considering you and they’re trying to understand if you can be a good fit, employers will try to understand if you can do the job. So, if you have the qualifications and skills to perform in the role, they will want to know that you want the job; in other words, that you will be excited to go to work every day and to work for that organization for, at least, a few years.

And also that you can be a good fit. So, a fit is based on elements that are connected to company culture and your personality, and, oftentimes, your emotional intelligence. And usually, that counts for seventy percent in the hiring decision.

So why am I sharing all of this? I want to say that if you address a career break the right way, that really can add to your profile and become an element that can distinguish yourself and the value that you bring forward. So, in other words, you want to reassure employers that your career break is not something negative but something that can add to your personal experience.

And so that’s why I can see that employees and candidates are doubtful about if they can share this experience because they think that that could be an element for not being selected for the positions that they are being interviewed for.

Mac Prichard:

I appreciate that you made this point, Elena, about risk and how employers are looking to reduce risk when making hiring decisions because it might sound counter-intuitive to some listeners that the best way to convey that you’re a less risky hire is to be forthright about your career break.

So, let’s talk about your ideas about how to explain those resume gaps after a career break. I know you’ve touched on this, but one of your suggestions is it’s not the resume gap that’s the issue here. It’s how you talk about it. Tell us more about that, Elena, and how a candidate should be talking about both the career breaks and the resume gaps they create.

Elena Giorgetti:

Yeah, that’s right. I want to reiterate that it’s not just a resume gap. It’s how you talk about it. And if you think about people that, for example, take some time to raise a family and they are reentering the workforce, they might have a big gap on their resume, but in that case, they have gained a lot of experience along the way. Probably, becoming a parent has been one of the most challenging and yet rewarding experiences in their life.

But let’s think about all of the time that they have spent juggling different responsibilities, keeping organized, or coordinating resources and people around them, making sure that they could stay on top of things. Or let’s think about all of the long hours that they have worked despite being exhausted or the commitment and ability that they had to keep in order to never really give up. And those are lifelong skills, and if you had them before becoming a parent, chances are that you became even better at some of these skills.

So the question is, how can you make those skills relevant for the role that you are applying to or interviewing for? And how can you tell your story in a way that becomes part of your personal brand and professional journey?

Mac Prichard:

Well, this is terrific, Elena. Hold right there. We’re gonna take a break. Stay with us. When we come back, Elena Giorgetti will continue to share her advice on how to talk about resume gaps after a career break.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio.

I’m talking with Elena Giorgetti.

She’s a career coach who specializes in transitions, emotional intelligence, and mental health.

Elena started her career as a recruiter in a Fortune 500 global consulting firm, and she’s worked in Europe and Canada.

She joins us from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Now, Elena, we were talking in the first segment about an important point you made, which is it’s not the resume gaps. It’s how you talk about them. You shared examples of the experiences you might gain, say, if you are a parent and you took a break to raise your children, and you were just about to walk us through not only how to identify those skills but how to talk about them in a way that’s gonna be meaningful to an employer.

Take us through that, Elena. What advice would you have for a listener about how to discuss those points?

Elena Giorgetti:

Yeah, I wanted to give another example. I had a client who had to take a break to take care of her dad during illness, and she was describing how she had to stay organized. During that time, she was working, and, of course, she had to take care of her sick dad, and also she had to learn how to communicate effectively with healthcare professionals to understand what was happening. And this made her realize when we were working together that she had learned a whole new language and jargon related to the healthcare industry that she could actually apply to a new role that she was interested in, in the healthcare industry.

So, any career break can teach us something, and that’s the story that you want to share. Also, if you’ve taken some time to travel or take a break to visit other countries, think about how that experience has impacted you and, maybe, what new perspectives it brought you and how it has made you become clearer about your career direction. Usually, I see that those breaks allow us to reevaluate what’s important to us, what makes us come alive, what we really want out of our careers.

And that can become a great differentiator, and you can say, hey, this is how this experience has changed me, and this is what I want moving forward in my career. That’s the confidence, and that’s what matters the most to employers.

Mac Prichard:

How do you work with your clients, Elena, to tell that story, to share the skills you have, and the value of the experiences that you’ve gone through in a way that is going to matter to the employer and also convey that you’re not a risky choice? Going back to your idea about how hiring managers look to reduce risk when making hiring decisions. What’s the best way to tell that story?

Elena Giorgetti:

Well, I would say, during interviews, just be authentic and transparent about your career break. You want to be concise. You don’t want to go into much detail about what happened, especially if you had some health issues. You don’t want to go too much into detail about your personal story. Keep it positive, and also focus on what you have done and also learned during that time.

So, as I said, you want to reassure employers. And so you want to address the concerns that they may have and also remember that they will appreciate your honesty and that you can be upfront about it. So remember to reassure them and also show that you have the confidence about owning your story, and that will definitely close the gap.

I want to give an example of another client that I worked with. And this person was on a personal leave for quite a while, I would say, a year and a half, and during that time, he took a leave to take care of himself because of burnout. After a while, he started to feel better, and he helped a friend organize their wedding. They also started to work on their strata to manage their finances. He also helped a friend launch their business by developing their website.

So, just to say that when it came the time to interview for a position for project manager for a big retail company here in Vancouver, he was able to draw from those experiences that he had gained during his career break, and he actually got the job. Because the employer actually considered those experiences that were relevant for what they needed in that role he was competing for.

Mac Prichard:

How did that candidate talk about those experiences in a way that was appealing to the employer?

Elena Giorgetti:

Well, he was talking about the fact that he had organized this wedding, even if it was something that was not directly relevant to this project management position. But he was able to talk about the fact that he had to deal with different stakeholders, that he had to also sign some contracts, evaluate those contracts, make decisions, that he had to organize a whole wedding, which implied different things to manage, timelines. Also, to understand from the people that were involved what their vision was and what they wanted to create.

Also, he could speak towards the web development piece. Which they actually had a website that they had developed for this wedding. And so he could talk about the skills that he had that developed in that using Square and SquareSpace.

So there were a few things the he knew, of course, from the job description that were relevant for this role. And so they were actually quite interested in learning about all of these experiences that he had had during this time. So they appreciated the fact that he was being upfront and honest about this time that he had spent taking care of himself and on leave. But at the same time, that he was involved in so many different things.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned a moment ago the importance of being confident and showing confidence when discussing a career break and the resume gaps that that break has created. How do you work with your clients, Elena, to help them be confident when having these conversations with hiring managers?

Elena Giorgetti:

Again, I work on their confidence by really helping them own their story. I think that when people think about having a career break, they’re not confident about it because they only see the negatives. So, for example, they just came out of burnout, or maybe they think that if they’ve been traveling, it can be seen as a waste of time or something that they just did for pleasure.

But then I really help them reframe the story and see that through that experience, they learned something. They grew as people, and that they have developed resilience or other skills, as we were just discussing, that could be relevant and that can really add something to who they are as people. I always say that employers hire people who they like and that they can see that can be a good fit for their organizations.

So it’s not just about their technical skills, their qualifications, their education. It’s also about their personality and their life stories. So I really help, I would say, reframing their story. First, accepting it, owning it, and then reframing it in a way that they can say it in a way that can be really compelling and confident.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Elena. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Elena Giorgetti:

What’s next for me? I am developing an online program that helps people crack the hidden job market. It’s gonna be a different module so that people can complete on their own. So it’s gonna be ready, probably, in the fall.

And I am working one-on-one with clients, helping them gain that confidence that we were talking about and make career decisions that are intentional and meaningful for them.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I know listeners can learn more about you and your work by visiting your website. That’s, and you also invite people to connect with you on LinkedIn. As always, if they do reach out to you on LinkedIn, I hope they’ll mention they heard you on Find Your Dream Job.

Now, Elena, given all of the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to talk about resume gaps after a career break?

Elena Giorgetti:

Well, one thing that I want people to take away from this is that a career break is just a small part of who you are as a professional and a person. So many people experience a career break, and if you reframe it as a valuable experience in your career journey, that will add to your personal value.

So embrace it as part of your journey and remember that even those experiences were opportunities for your growth and personal professional development.

Mac Prichard:

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