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I recently encountered a student with a 3 year employment gap because of ill family members and their own illness. They had completed a graduate degree from a top 20 engineering school in a very in demand field of engineering 3 years ago.

In the mean time, they have been keeping themselves updated taking undergraduate and graduate courses and other training courses relevant and up to date to their field and doing volunteer and side projects with colleagues.

They have become quite discouraged and worried about their future prospects, so much so, that they are considering doing something else completely.

What can be done about such a large gap in employment history ? References that are good, what other things ? How to best address this in interview, on resume and with HR ?

I have asked about this before with another student and this has been asked here in regards to explaining employment gaps, but this gap is even larger, 3 years (which I dont think has been properly addressed here before) and has to due with multiple issues including family and personal illness, so I think this warrants a different look then questions before it.

Thanks.

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  • Are they enrolled in a degree program? As that’s generally not considered a gap. – Matthew Gaiser Aug 21 '20 at 17:26
  • Edited it - degree completed 3 years ago. – user4434 Aug 21 '20 at 17:33
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    How to address it? They already have. What's not sufficient about their explanation? At the end of the day, they have explained the gap. If a prospective employer has a problem with it, there isn't anything that can be done about it. – joeqwerty Aug 21 '20 at 17:46
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    How to explain 3 years of family and personal illness where you nethertheless took courses and did projects? Briefly is best, sounds fake already, no point making a big thing about it. – Kilisi Aug 22 '20 at 0:56
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    Cross posted here: academia.stackexchange.com/q/154218/72855 – Solar Mike Aug 22 '20 at 9:48
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I have taken a good 4.5 years gap and got a job later. What I did:

  1. Written a good cover letter, mentioning my skillset before the gap.
  2. There was one single sentence that said, I am interested to return to the industry after taking a gap of 4.5 years.
  3. What are the skillsets or the tech stack that I have learnt during the gap and how I am preparing myself to return to the industry.
  4. Clearly mentioned career gap (20XX-20XY) along with the other companies where I had worked.

I prepared myself mentally about the following.

  1. Not everyone is going to accept a person with a career break.
  2. Even if they do, it would be a compromise in the salary.
  3. I was prepared for both point # 1 and point # 2
  4. I have a strong mindset that there is a job for everyone in this world. Software engineering is a huge one and undoubtedly there is a job for every technical person. It depends on the manager/lead as to how much work they can get done from me.
  5. No person on this Earth can demotivate me from returning to the industry. No one owns this industry.
  6. If a HR or interviewer is trying to demean me, I was glad that I have dodged a bullet right at the beginning. Also, never argue with them. There are better people out in the world and we have a bigger fish to fry.
  7. I brushed up my all the basic concepts that I worked on earlier. It was mainly unlearning what I already knew and started afresh.
  8. Updated myself with the latest versions of the technologies that I had worked on earlier; it is easier than thought. Going through the official documentation for "What's new" is more than sufficient.
  9. I had read quite a few posts here at workplace which mentioned experiences about those who have had a career break. Search for employment-gap, career-gap tags.
  10. Most importantly, it is not important to mention the reason for career break; I always said it was for personal reasons. No one dared to go beyond that. It would also emphasize that we are not dwelling in the past and are ready to move on with a fresh mindset. Whether it is illness or family issues or any xyz reason, the world doesn't have to know about it. It would merely be a fodder for them. It is all in our mind and if it is in our mind, it would reflect on us and again it would be in their minds too. Nothing should reflect about the break, except a half sentence of our cover letter and single line in the resume with the date range.

Most importantly, confidence is the key.

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  • Amen Amen Amen. Only issue is that this person has no career before this break as you did, so its a bit more challenging I would think. – user4434 Aug 21 '20 at 19:36
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    @sheeple It is all in the mind. That person would be considered as a fresher and can join as an intern. They can always mention one thing; after graduating, I took a break due to personal reasons. Not everyone's problems are the same. And there is no single solution for all such problems. The way a person has handled that problem is important; it guides us in deriving a solution that suits us. Again, it is all in our mind. The more we want to dwell about the reason for break; the more difficult it is to come out of that mindset. – WonderWoman Aug 21 '20 at 19:42
  • @sheeple Also, more challenging or less challenging - it is all in our minds. Change that mindset and see the difference. S/he would be a new person, altogether. – WonderWoman Aug 21 '20 at 19:47
  • @sheeple Challenge/problems are all relative terms; but; if one has a mindset to gain sympathy about the problems that one has faced, it would never go good in the future. – WonderWoman Aug 21 '20 at 19:57
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How to best address this in interview, on resume and with HR ?

They should honestly state the reason(s) for the gap and let the prospective employer know what they have been doing in the meantime to maintain/improve their skill set. After that it is up to the prospective employer to determine if they are willing to take a chance on this candidate or not.

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List all the volunteer projects on the resume, volunteer works looks good.

Also, in the interview emphasize everything you just mentioned.

I recovered from a FIVE year gap doing just that.

Tell the student they can turn their misfortune into an advantage by demonstrating all the work and education they pursued rather than sitting back and doing nothing. Employers LOVE stories like that, it demonstrates that they have an energetic, determined person who would do the same for them.

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