Re-Entering the Workforce: How to Get Hired After a Career Gap

ByNathan Paulus
Edited byRae Osborn

Updated: January 9, 2024

ByNathan Paulus
Edited byRae Osborn

Updated: January 9, 2024

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

Whether your hiatus was for family care, personal health or other reasons, getting hired again after a career gap marks a professional transition that many people will experience in their lifetimes. Knowing how to navigate your return to the job market effectively can save you precious time, energy and money.

For a successful comeback, it’s important to align your skills with current industry trends and put a positive spin on your career gap. Implementing a targeted job search strategy and smartly addressing your career gap in job interviews can help you land your desired role.

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Understanding the Benefits and Drawbacks of Career Gaps

A career gap or a career break is a period during which an individual steps away from their professional life; this can range from a few months to several years. Whether voluntary or involuntary, career gaps are not uncommon and can occur for various reasons, such as:

  • Family Care: Taking time off to raise children or care for a sick family member.
  • Personal Health: Dealing with personal illness or mental health issues.
  • Further Education: Pursuing additional qualifications, training or higher education.
  • Career Change: Taking time to reassess career goals and pivot to a different industry or role.
  • Volunteering or Travel: Engaging in volunteer work, travel or other enriching experiences for personal growth.
  • Layoffs: Involuntary career breaks due to job loss or industry downturns.

Although career gaps can offer valuable time for personal growth, they might raise concerns for potential employers when reviewing your resume. Here are some reasons why:

  • Outdated Skills: Industry changes may make previous skills less relevant, requiring upskilling or reskilling.
  • Commitment Concerns: Employers may wonder if candidates with extended breaks have consistent commitment and dedication to their professional roles.
  • Workplace Integration: Employers may question a candidate's ability to adapt to new settings and workplace technologies after a long break.
  • Professional Network: For roles dependent on industry connections, concerns about a weakened network may arise due to prolonged absence.

Acknowledging these challenges and adopting a proactive approach will give you a leg-up to restart your career.

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TIPS FOR WOMEN & OLDER ADULTS

If you’re an adult over 50 looking to switch careers or a woman seeking employment after a period of stay-at-home caretaking, MoneyGeek has dedicated resources for you:

Preparing for Your Professional Comeback

Effective preparation lays the foundation for a smoother transition and helps establish confidence. Assess and update your skills and knowledge to position yourself as a competitive candidate. Follow these steps to get hired again after taking time off:

Assess Your Skills and Interests

Identify the strong suits that make you a valuable candidate and realize your passions. Take these actionable tips to tailor your job search:

1
Reflect on Past Roles

Consider what you enjoyed and excelled at in your previous positions. Identify the most rewarding skills and those that need improvement.

2
Current Industry Trends

Research the latest trends in your desired industry to understand the evolving skill requirements.

3
Skill Gap Analysis

Compare your current skill set with job descriptions in your chosen field to identify gaps.

4
Personal Interests

Align your career goals with personal interests to find a professionally fulfilling and personally rewarding path.

Update Your Knowledge and Skills

Updating your soft and hard skills demonstrates readiness and commitment to a professional environment. Most entry-level positions across various fields require specific qualifications, including educational degrees, work experience and training, with detailed information accessible through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Follow these tips to update your skill set:

1
Professional Development Courses

Enroll in courses or workshops that address your identified skill gaps.

2
Online Learning Platforms

Utilize online resources like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning or Udemy for flexible learning options.

3
Industry Certifications

Consider obtaining certifications that can add value to your resume and show your dedication to staying updated.

4
Volunteering or Internships

Volunteer or pursue internships to gain practical experience and new skills.

5
Networking Events and Conferences

Attend industry events to learn about current trends and connect with professionals.

Updating Your Resume and Cover Letter

Your resume and cover letter are your personal narratives that can turn a career gap into an asset. Use them as tools to showcase your resilience and readiness to rejoin the workforce. Here are some actions you can take:

Address the Career Gap in Your Resume

Honesty and strategic presentation are key. Here are tips to help you effectively communicate your career break as a period of positive development and learning:

  • Be Honest: Be upfront about your career gap. Avoid any temptation to hide or obscure this period.
  • Functional Resume Format: Use a functional resume format that highlights skills and achievements over chronological work history.
  • Brief Explanation: You should be concise in your resume's summary or professional experience section. Frame the gap as a period of growth.
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RESUME SUMMARY EXAMPLE: ADDRESSING A CAREER GAP

Experienced marketing professional with a strong background in digital content strategy and social media engagement. Took a career hiatus (2021-2023) for family care and professional development, during which I expanded my expertise in digital marketing through continuous learning and volunteer work. Eager to apply these enhanced skills in a dynamic new role.

Write a Cover Letter

A well-crafted cover letter should transform your career gap into a positive aspect of your professional story. Take these tips to address the gap with a positive tone:

  • Personalize Your Story: Share your unique story and positively frame your career gap as a part of your professional growth.
  • Emphasize New Skills: Showcase relevant skills or knowledge gained during your break.
  • Show Enthusiasm: Express your eagerness and readiness to rejoin the workforce.
  • Connect the Dots: Explain how your career gap experiences make you a better candidate for the position.
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COVER LETTER EXAMPLE: POSITIVELY FRAMING A CAREER BREAK

Your cover letter is a great place to expand on an extended absence and showcase how you spent your time in a way that makes you an asset to a potential employer. The example below is an excerpt from a sample cover letter for a Marketing Officer. Make yours even stronger by adding specific details.

Last year, I took a career break for family care, during which I stayed connected with the latest in marketing, attending webinars and volunteering in social media management. This period has not only refreshed my skills but also deepened my understanding of the evolving digital landscape.

Job Hunting After a Career Gap

Focus on targeted job search methods, leverage your network and utilize modern job search platforms. If location is not a concern, you may check MoneyGeek’s top cities for US jobseekers.

Here's how to approach job hunting to maximize your chances of finding a suitable position:

Company Websites

Many organizations list their vacancies on their own sites before advertising elsewhere. Directly exploring company websites lets you learn more about their culture and values. Tailor your application to align with the company’s mission and the specific job requirements. Set up alerts for new postings on companies you're particularly interested in to be one step ahead in the application process.

Networking Strategies

Start by reconnecting with former colleagues, mentors and industry contacts. Attend workshops, seminars and industry events to expand your network. Utilize social media platforms, especially LinkedIn, to engage with industry leaders and participate in relevant groups. Networking is also about gathering insights and support that can be invaluable in your job search.

Job Search Platforms

Leverage these job search platforms to tap into a wider range of opportunities. Each platform has unique features, so consider using a mix of these tools to increase your chances of finding a role.

Job Search Platform
Description

Offers a robust job search engine tailored to your profile and preferences.

Aggregates postings from various websites, offering a comprehensive search experience.

Offers insights into company cultures and employee reviews along with job listings.

A long-standing job search platform that provides a wide range of job listings and career advice.

Ideal for those seeking flexible or remote work opportunities.

Explaining Resume Gaps in Job Interviews

Investing time in interview preparation can help you feel more comfortable, make a good impression and offer insightful responses. Expect questions about the career gap and rehearse your responses to address them confidently. Here are a few frequently asked questions during such interviews:

1
Can you explain your employment gap?

You do not have to disclose the reasons behind your employment gap if you feel uncomfortable doing so. Regardless, emphasize the constructive aspects of your hiatus, including any new skills learned or volunteer work undertaken.

2
Why do you want to return to the workforce now?

Align your reasons with a personal ambition or market opportunity, then connect it with the role.

3
How have you maintained relevant skills and knowledge during your career gap?

Showcase how you've kept current in your field during the break, such as through online courses, following industry trends or reading relevant books.

4
Did you face any challenges during your career gap, and how did you overcome them?

When sharing the challenges you encountered, highlight your adaptability and growth mindset.

5
How do you plan to transition back into a regular work routine?

Mention any steps you’ve already taken, such as adjusting your daily routine or engaging in professional activities.

6
How do you see your career progressing from this point?

Show your long-term commitment and career aspirations. Explain how this role fits into your broader career goals and how you plan to contribute to the company.

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ON SALARY NEGOTIATION

Maintain a positive and respectful approach when negotiating your salary. Start by researching your industry's salary ranges and know your minimum acceptable minimum wage. Highlighting your achievements can strengthen your case. If salary talks stall, consider negotiating for additional benefits like flexible hours or extra PTO. You may read MoneyGeek’s Salary Negotiation Guide for more tips.

Resources for Further Support and Guidance

MoneyGeek has compiled a list of valuable resources offering guidance, advice and tools to help you navigate the path back into the workforce:

  • LinkedIn Learning. Offers a wide range of courses to update your skills, focusing on business, technology and creative fields.
  • CareerOneStop. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, it provides comprehensive information on career exploration, training and job search.
  • Meetup. Great for finding and attending local networking events and workshops relevant to your industry.
  • Coursera. Provides access to online courses from top universities and companies, covering a wide range of subjects.
  • American Job Centers. This offers in-person support with job searches, training and career development.
  • National Career Development Association. This provides resources for professional career counseling and development.

About Nathan Paulus


Nathan Paulus headshot

Nathan Paulus is the Head of Content Marketing at MoneyGeek, with nearly 10 years of experience researching and creating content related to personal finance and financial literacy.

Paulus has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of St. Thomas, Houston. He enjoys helping people from all walks of life build stronger financial foundations.


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