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I've recently quit my grad school and I'm on a lookout for jobs. My CV seems to be in quite a high demand if the amount of calls from recruiters is anything to judge it by. I've not been employed for three months now and I'm taking this time to do some overdue travelling as well as working on personal projects.

Today in a call a recruiter mentioned that I might want to consider finding something fast because having this few months out of employment "raises some questions". Well, I'm sure it does - should I clarify the answers to those questions when I apply for new jobs?

If it's at all important, the main reason for me not having a job yet is that I'm quite picky in what kind of jobs I want. I have some red-lines when it comes to the industries I'd work for (ethical considerations), and locations/commute distance I'm interested in (work/life balance), as well as wanting to work on a product and with a team I can actually get behind. Combine that with my niche having openings less often than the rest of the industry and you end up with a long job search (which I'm fine with but I'm realising prospective employers might not be).

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    You say your CV is in high demand but you also say openings are less often than rest of the industry resulting in long job search. This sounds contradictory. – PagMax May 13 at 9:48
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    When you say you quit grad school, did you finish it or simply drop out? – lucasgcb May 13 at 10:52
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    I've dropped out. – KubaFYI May 13 at 10:58
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    Your headline doesn't exactly match your question. You want to change your CV or do you want to modify your responses to recruiters (or do both)? A lot of this sounds indecisive by the way- you want a job but want to take an extended vacation. IMO dropping out of college is the actual red-flag here, not your gap in employment or how you want to indicate you like to take an extended vacation. – Zorkolot May 13 at 13:10
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    I put, self employed to fill the gaps. Because I always find something to do. – Matt May 13 at 20:40

11 Answers 11

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Today in a call a recruiter mentioned that I might want to consider finding something fast because having this few months out of employment "raises some questions"

No it does not.

A "gap" only raises questions if it's a gap. If you worked from 2011-2016 and 2018-2019 and refuse to tell me what you did in between, that is a gap. It probably means a prison sentence, rehab or anything else a person would like to hide.

However finishing school and then touring the world because you will never be that independent and free again is not a gap. It's not secret. It's actually remarkably realistic.

So whatever you want to do, do it. And tell. I don't mind seeing a CV with 6 months of travelling Australia or something. Do it now, so you don't have to regret not doing it, or somehow trying to do it while working for me.

However, be prepared to tell. If you cannot tell or have nothing interesting to tell, people will think you hide something. So for example travelling Australia is great. Telling me you binge-watched Netflix specials for 6 months because your mom paid the rent and food and you could is not impressive.

So it boils down to: do interesting stuff that you can put on your CV, even if only as a single headline ("2019 - Toured Australia and South America") to explain a perceived gap. Or get a job. But you certainly don't need a job as an excuse if you have interesting stuff to do instead.


Disclaimer: "Australia" from my point of view is the other side of the planet. If by any chance you are from Australia, maybe pick another target to "see the world".

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    I personally see little difference in tourism and staying at home. Both are just personal time tuning out and can be uninteresting to interviewers; unless you're a travel agency, and in that case staying at home working on projects might be more interesting for development careers... Point is, if it doesn't mean anything to your occupation I wouldn't go into details. – lucasgcb May 13 at 10:58
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    May I ask if you hire people? To me there is a lot of difference between people that actively do things they want to do and people who are too lazy to get a job. Tourism to Australia takes a lot of planing and effort and money. Building your own race car from parts takes organization and effort and money. Lying on the couch watching TV only tells me that person has mastered the skill of breathing. – nvoigt May 13 at 11:29
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    I'm not saying the should be put on display, I'm just saying it explains that that gap is nothing you hide. It is a gap in employment, but not a gap in your CV. To me, a gap in the CV is a red flag. But maybe that's different depending on how we structure CVs here. – nvoigt May 13 at 11:34
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    @JoeStrazzere I think it comes down to our difference in CV structure. I've read often enough that you should leave of things that are not relevant to the job you apply for, but that is simply not how we do things where I live. I can agree that it's good advice for parts of the world, but other parts may handle that differently. Where I live, I expect to see something on a CV for any gap, just a one-liner no matter what it is, otherwise I will assume the worst. – nvoigt May 13 at 11:38
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    @nvoigt People who think like you are exactly why I make up cool (but ultimately unverifiable) sounding stories to fill gaps. The truth is less interesting: I like to take peaceful time to myself once in a while. – John K May 13 at 18:20
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I'd avoid doing so as it actually risks creating the opposite impression - either through a "doth protest too much" or the "Streisand Effect"

It's certainly okay to discuss what you've been up to in your "time off" (e.g. travelling, personal projects, etc.) during the interview, though.

As you say your niche currently has fairly infrequent openings, a few months of looking for work is unlikely to raise any notice.

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    I once explained a resume gap by saying my wife and I had quit our jobs to spend three months driving from coast to coast (USA) and back (very close to the truth -- I didn't mention I'd been driven to it by burnout and major depression). Some interviewers thought I was crazy. One pair of guys thought it sounded like a great idea. They hired me, and I'm still happy there six years on. – Ed Plunkett May 13 at 14:02
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a recruiter mentioned that I might want to consider finding something fast because having this few months out of employment "raises some questions"

Note the source of this 'information.' It's a recruiter who offers you jobs.

He's just trying to make you accept one of his offers before you have time to evaluate other – possibly better – offers.

Being unemployed for three months after graduation is perfectly fine.

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    This. At best, the recruiter is a fool who believes what they said (despite OP continuing to get a positive response). At worst, they're trying to force OP into the first possible thing so they can get their cut and stop spending time and effort on them. – Matthew Read May 13 at 15:50
  • Very good point. The recruiter is acting like a career counselor but isn't being paid to be one. So they might have a different motive. – Matthew Leingang May 13 at 17:21
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    "Being unemployed for three months after graduation is perfectly fine." yes, but with all due respect to the OP, being unemployed for three months after dropping out of school just makes it look like you can't commit, unless you can paint it in the right context. – dwizum May 13 at 19:54
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    If you ever want to work for the US government, then you will have to explain each and every month since you were 18. If you say you were touring Australia, you will need to provide the names, addresses, and contact info (preferably in the US) of references who can vouch for your trip to Australia. So maybe being unemployed for three months is perfectly fine and maybe it is not. – emory May 13 at 22:22
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Most people generally don't put it in their applications, you'll get the chance to explain the gap when you go for interviews. There are plenty of people with big gaps in their CV's some ranging over a good few years.

As for the demand of your CV, I wouldn't judge it from the amount of recruiters that are calling you but base it more on the amount of interviews you are being given. Recruiters will call anyone with the slightest suiting in the job on the off chance they can get a clients role filled even if the employee isn't a "perfect fit".

  • Fair enough about the recruiters. I've also had a fair number of requests for interviews which I turned down because I knew I would not be interested in the job because of one or more of my red lines. – KubaFYI May 13 at 9:23
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As someone interviewing people regularly, I would be 100% happy with this as an introduction:

"I've recently finished grad school and am on a lookout for jobs. I've taken this time to do some overdue travelling as well as working on personal projects, so I currently have no commitments and am ready to start with you anytime."

I personally view the recruiting process as a relaxed communication affair between two parties trying to find out if they are "right" for each other. Be honest and agreeable, and good things will happen. If any party (either the middle-man or the employer) tries to pressure you into anything - either ignore it, assuming it's their habit; or walk away. Especially as your resumee seems to be in demand.

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    Haha I wish it was a "relaxed communication". I found it shocking how often recruiters are trying to underplay and aggressively question my personal life choices regarding willingness to commute long distances or choosing to not engage with certain industries. – KubaFYI May 13 at 16:12
  • @KubaFYI, it does come into question what you think "long commutes" are or what your other "red lines" are. You don't have to explain them here, since they aren't relevant the question, nor does it help clarify what you expect out of this Answer. I just want you to consider what other people think about your choices and how you would react if someone had as hard convictions as you do about a different topic. Some people think a 30 min commute is long, while I've heard of other people having a daily 3-4 hour commute. I'm not judging, I'm just explaining my PoV. – computercarguy May 13 at 16:25
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    @computercarguy well to clarify I mean more like recruiters go "well, if it was me I'd do this and that, commute this and that long and work for such and such". It's annoying because clearly they are not me. It's annoying because of the assumption that I should care only about the prestige of a company and my pay and if I don't get tempted because of a few grand extra pay there is something wrong with me. – KubaFYI May 13 at 16:34
  • @KubaFYI, there is something to be said for working for a prestigious company, but you shouldn't also just work for someone just because of their "prestige". There are plenty examples of prestigious companies that ruined themselves, either because they think they can do no wrong or out of fear of losing the prestige. Also, if they don't represent who you want to be, then don't. That said, it would help you get jobs later on. It's a line you need to really consider, an not just because of personal preference or ease of living. Also, those couple of grand can really help at times. – computercarguy May 13 at 16:56
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    @KubaFYI Remember that recruiters are paid by employers when they find an employee (that stays around for some period of time). If you turn down a position they have open, they don't get paid; of course they want you to take it, and will try to sell it to you as hard as they can. – Martin Bonner May 14 at 13:53
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As you can tell from the responses, there is a large variation in how people perceive such gaps.

It's all about how you "spin" your career trajectory. Many people don't have a problem with a candidate satisfying their wander-lust after doing time in grad school, whereas some see it as a sign of someone who is distracted.

It probably should not be on your CV/resume, but be ready to explain the gap in a positive light, with as little or as much detail as you may be prompted for when doing an interview. If you can cite one interesting thing from your travels, that will go over better than defensively explaining why you decided to travel.

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I had a peak in contacts from headhunters when I wrote on my LinkedIn profile that I was "on sabbatical", which was true although not in the strict academic sense. My experience would suggest that what you are doing is fine. As others have pointed out, it is your ability or readiness at explaining what you have been doing that relates to your credibility. Being frank and honest should not be a drawback. Also, if you attract curiosity among job recruiters, there is no reason to doubt that that curiousity is not genuine.

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When a job is posted in the market, it is quite often that (at least in the UK) it gets posted by different recruiters to try and increase the chances.

This can become a problem for you as well, if a company receives the application by 2 different recruiters you may not be invited for an interview.

The measure of whether you are on demand or not is by the number of interviews and job offers, not by the phone calls regarding jobs as multiple calls might be about the same position.

Any reasonable employer understands if you take your time choosing the right employer, the fact you are interviewing with them already gives them the signal that you are considering them.

Do not listen to the recruiter regarding just finding something, if, for example, you decided to start delivering the newspaper for a few weeks while you try getting the job you want in software development, it is harder to explain why you are delivering the newspaper than if you are unemployed looking for a good fit employer.

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Today in a call a recruiter mentioned that I might want to consider finding something fast because having this few months out of employment "raises some questions"

Your resume/CV is not the entirety of your life. It's there to be a brief synopsis of your working life. It's meant to raise questions.

Interviewer: I see you used /specific technology/ during your time at ________.
Me: Yes, I used /specific technology/ there. We utilized it to widget the doohickey while rationalizing the chaos of our product, and I used it for X of the Y years I was there.

A good interviewer will ask you questions about what you did at the job besides what's on that piece of paper. They will ask you why you left. They will ask you why you took the job you did. The better your resume/CV, the better questions they can ask and the less you have to explain about why stuff isn't on it.

If you have a good answer about any of that, then you're fine. Even straight up being laid off, yet still performing your trade/craft/skills shouldn't be held against you by a good interviewer. I've taken jobs outside of the tech sector during gaps in my employment, and I could tell that interviewers wondered why I did it instead of finding another tech job. Also, taking that job made it harder to find another tech job, due to lack of time, energy, and the ability to do an interview "whenever".

When people ask about my computer programming experience, I explain that I have 6 years of professional experience, but also go on to explain that I've been learning it since 1993 and have used it to enhance my 15 years in computer repair to automate repetitive jobs or to prevent errors in long manual processes.

To enhance what others said, you don't have to take a job just because a recruiter says so, because they really do make more money by you taking the job they offer. Even if they don't make a commission, if their company isn't making money, they lose their job, too.

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What you want to be able to show is that you did not leave your research studies program because of

lack of

  1. smarts or
  2. dedication or
  3. discipline or
  4. mental health.

You simply outgrew the program. You learned so much you were starting to be able to do cooler/better stuff than your professors and simply felt a need to move on and do stuff on your own.

If time spent on your own "raises questions", simply make a compendium describing your own projects and how they illuminate your skills. Make sure even a non-technical person can understand the value and usefulness.

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In my experience, yes. It's important that they know what you're doing in that time spent away from work and school - especially when it's the case that you've taken the initiative to travel, explore and live your life.

It would be different if you sat and did nothing for that period, but just because travelling isn't "work or schooling", it doesn't been that it's not valuable life experience. I recently got accepted for an internship that I didn't quite qualify for, simply because I'd been on a mere 7 day European coach tour in the previous summer.

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