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I was wondering if I should include any text on my resume and LinkedIn for reasons to why I was not working 2 years after graduating college. And if I should, how should I phrase it other than "being depressed and felt like my skills and past projects were not good enough to apply for a job" on my resume.

My backstory: after graduating I took 2 years time off due to being unmotivated to find a job after looking at job requirements and thinking I won't get hired when comparing my design portfolio to my peers. I took that time to overcome depression and laziness to refine my skills and my design portfolio. I'm now confident to start job searching even starting freelance in order to transition to full-time. Would it be wise to put "freelancer/Self-employed" during that time on my resume even though I didn't actually do that?

On a side note, I just got hired for a freelance contract position at a big marketing and consulting company working with a well-known brand even though I didn't explain the gap or include freelancer on my resume during the interview. That's why I'm considering putting freelancer or self-employed to cover up the long break since I just got hired as a freelancer and use that as a cover-up with the work I'm going to do.

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    What do you plan to say when an interviewer starts asking for more details about your freelance activities during that period? – Patricia Shanahan Feb 11 at 0:04
  • @JoeStrazzere Essentially, cause I read that online job applications usually skip resumes with big employment gap so I want something to cover it up when I apply for future jobs. – MYZ Feb 11 at 0:08
  • @PatriciaShanahan I would mention working on small projects for friends to improve my technical design skills, but mention more emphasis on my current freelance job and the skills I've used and obtained from there. – MYZ Feb 11 at 0:09
  • @JoeStrazzere well I don't really want to make up companies I didn't freelance at and would honestly not want to lie, but I want to know if there's a way to write down on my resume that I was improving my design skills and portfolio during that gap instead of leaving it blank so employers know I didn't just do nothing during that time. – MYZ Feb 11 at 0:23
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    @JoeStrazzere Thanks you are right, just needed some advice. I'll just explain my gap to any future employers. – MYZ Feb 11 at 0:36
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No, it's not OK. It's a flat out lie, and if some potential employer makes the entirely reasonable request to see evidence that you were paid for your work, you're going to get caught out.

Indeed, the main reason gaps in your employment history look bad is because they're lies of omission. So long as you can put something down that you can back up - even if it's a year-long backpacking holiday - at least a future employer can safely conclude that you didn't have a string of bad jobs from which you got the sack, spend the time in jail, or worse.

Obviously, you still want to be selling the positives though, so perhaps try retconning that period into one where you made a dedicated push towards bridging the gap between the skills you graduated with and what was needed for you to get paid work. So long as you can produce quality work and come across as confident now, I doubt anyone's going to question that version of events, but it certainly sounds a lot better than the first version you gave us.

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    So can I put on my resume for example: 2017-2019. Personal Development and refining past projects by further improving my technical and analytical design skills as a (Specific role) designer. – MYZ Feb 11 at 2:35
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    Sounds good to me. – Matthew Barber Feb 11 at 4:03
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    @MYZ Yes, but as Mr Barber said, make sure you can back that up in interviews. If you claim to have spent two years "improving your technical skills" and then can't answer very basic questions in that field it's going to look worse than just having a two year gap. – Steve-O Feb 11 at 14:41
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Some other people have already pointed this out in the comments and in the other answer, but if you did that, what would you say if people asked you about your projects during that time period? Given that you don't appear to have done even a single freelance project during that time, this is an easily-disprovable lie.

Also, a side note on something you pointed out in the comments:

Essentially, cause I read that online job applications usually skip resumes with big employment gap so I want something to cover it up when I apply for future jobs.

Statistically, far less than 0.5% of candidates who apply for job to my current company through a job board end up getting hired. For some job boards, it's 0.1% or less - and that's just the ones that we make a final decision on, not the ones that get "lost in the shuffle" somehow. And that's in an era of record-low unemployment. My point being, if you're just relying on online applications for your job search like this, you're probably already in trouble.

The point being, you probably want to rethink your approach to your whole approach to your job search. In terms of the search itself, you'll have better luck with networking, or at least with a good staffing firm. (At my company, we hire at least 3% of staffing agency referrals and 4% of referrals "across the board" last I checked; if that still sounds depressingly low, consider that that's still 8x better than a job board).

The chances of getting hired are far better even then getting referred if you used to be an intern or contractor with us. Which brings up another point - if you do a good job with your current job, they're a lot more likely to bring you on full-time if a position opens up.

And, of course, your portfolio is important. If you have good work samples, that's extremely helpful.

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