I was laid off from a quality assurance job about year ago. I was never actively looking for work until recently (I was living off savings). During that time, I really just wanted to relax and catch up on movies/books/video games I've always wanted to watch/read/play but never got around to doing. I also did a bit of traveling and worked on a few small, open source programming projects. Now that I'm done with that, I want to start working again.

If an employer asks what I've been doing with my time, how do I explain myself without looking like a total bum?

  • it is not wrong to say that because of market conditions company downsized.
    – Yusubov
    Commented Jul 13, 2012 at 0:52
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    I can understand a few months but I personally feel that it is a tad irresponsible to use savings to slack for a whole year. With that being said I wouldn't hold it against you if I were hiring for a position and I felt you were qualified. Commented Jul 13, 2012 at 12:13

4 Answers 4


I would have phrased it as something positive, because I assume that it was.

When I left Company X, I had enough savings for the opportunity of a lifetime.

And then briefly portray the best parts in a good light.

I take inspiration from Tim Ferris, the author of "The 4 Hour Workweek", who briefly mentions just such circumstances.

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    +1 "Portray the best parts in a good light". People tend to forget the "productive" activities they did during their down time which is really a plus, e.g. in OP's case working on open source programming projects.
    – Spoike
    Commented Jul 13, 2012 at 10:43
  • @Spoike, out of curiosity, what's with the link going through so.com before going to amazon? :)
    – Letharion
    Commented Jul 13, 2012 at 12:12
  • It seems stackexchange sites converts links that go to Amazon... probably so that they can get some referrer bonus from them or something.
    – Spoike
    Commented Jul 13, 2012 at 12:55
  • Ah, so it wasn't intentional. Cool, I'll start posting a lot of amazon links to support SO then ;)
    – Letharion
    Commented Jul 13, 2012 at 14:19
  • You could also describe it as taking a sabbatical leave from work, if you're looking for a phrase to use.
    – cscracker
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 16:47

Really, what's wrong with an honest answer?

You saved and spent sensibly. Spending a year out of the workplace while traveling on your own money and working on personal projects does not make you a 'bum'!

If a company won't hire you because you gave an honest answer to a personal question that's non-relevant to their requirements, then do you really want to work there in the first place?

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    then do you really want to work there in the first place? - yes they are a great employer... Commented Jul 13, 2012 at 12:56
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    @Chad: "Great employer" is such a loose term. Even if an employer are highly regarded by outsiders does not necessarily equate to great workplace or company culture that one would like to participate in. Potential employers who don't respond well to honest answers should be seen as a huge red flag, as in borderline exploitative, which should be considered if you're looking.
    – Spoike
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 10:53
  • @Spoike - My point was that just because you have to get past the troll on the bridge sometimes it is worth it to get to the other side. Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 12:51
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    @Chad - I understand that point. My point is that I have cynically low tolerance for trolls. If there are other bridges in the vicinity that are devoid of trolls then I'd rather burn the bridge down with the troll under it earlier than to get eaten up by it. How's that for analogy? :-D My rationale is that recruiters and HR drones have a responsibility to act appropriately, ethically and professionally on the behalf of their customer (who is the employer). This outlook may fail if all bridges have trolls on them, but in my experience that situation is a quite rare.
    – Spoike
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 14:02
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    If the OP wasn't hired because of his honest answer, it is most probable that the real reason he wasn't hired was just that the interviewer didn't like him personally and seized his year as a 'bum' as an excuse. It is impossible for me to get my head around a company that would say "Ron did well on his interview and has the qualifications we're looking for, but darn it, he was a bum for a year so we have to pass". And someone thinks that is a 'great company'! Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 1:26

I subscribe to Steve Jobs' philosophy about innovation: it comes from having a lot of experiences and then being able to "connect the dots." Given that you have built up a number of experiences in the past year, I would view your experiences as an asset if I were on the other side of the table. I would expect that you'd a more nimble collaborator, and somebody I'd want to work with. I would also expect that your batteries be recharged, so I wouldn't have to worry about burn-out in the near future. Bottom-line: Give an honest answer!


Sounds like you are someone who worked hard enough to save a year's wages. However, if you collected unemployement when you could be working, that's a tough sell. Demonstrate what you've learned from the open source project.

Hopefully, you've learned some strategies to not get burned-out in your next job or maybe focus on project work with limited time-frames.

  • Why is it a tough sell if the OP collected unemployment? To me, that's just smart, since the unemployment would allow him to extend his savings and he probably had lower wages so his employer could pay the insurance/tax that funds unemployment benefits. That said, at least some places do require you to look for work while on unemployment. Is that your point?
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 22:18

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