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I finished schooling in December 2014, after working summer internships every summer since freshman year of college and finishing my master's degree in 3 semesters while doing research and teaching assistant jobs.

I had the intention of taking a month off and then immediately starting a job, but after 9 months of burnout I am still not employed. I now have a large gap in my resume.

I haven't accomplished any real useful work during that time and many days I would be too depressed or anxious to do anything pertaining to job searching.

Now that I am starting to recover from being burnt out, I have to explain what I was doing during the 9 months without making excuses like "too depressed to work" or saying something that I have no medical proof of.

What can I do to explain this gap without being axed from consideration for a job?

  • Nine months of job searching for a fresh out of college graduate isn't so unusual. Job hunting can be really discouraging, especially when you have very little experience. Your experience does not make you at all unique, but still you have no other option than to keep trying. I'm the meantime, get people you know to review your resume and help with mock interviews, work on building job skills. – Kai Sep 9 '15 at 2:51
  • Possible duplicate of workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/12291/…? – Monica Cellio Sep 9 '15 at 3:01
  • @MonicaCellio Definitely relevant but probably not a duplicate considering the OP is fresh out of school and has never been employed full-time. – Lilienthal Sep 9 '15 at 10:35
  • I've retitled this since I'm probably not the only one who misinterpreted "after finishing school". – Lilienthal Sep 9 '15 at 10:37
  • @Lilienthal oh, ok. I'm pretty sure we have another "gap right after graduation" question, though I haven't found it yet. There are two basic situations, though: gap in the middle of experience you want to report (as in the other question), and gap at the beginning where you could more-easily omit it. This question sounds like the first (assuming the internships are relevant experience the OP wants to include), but it would be good to clarify. – Monica Cellio Sep 9 '15 at 13:03
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What can I do to explain this gap without being axed from consideration for a job?

First of all, you won't need to explain any gap unless you are asked about it during an interview. Since this appears to be your first professional position out of school, the question may never even come up.

If it does, you would probably be better off avoiding statements involving "depressed" or "anxious" or "recover" or "haven't accomplished any real useful work".

You could indicate that you needed to take some time off after such an intensive academic career (summer internships, master's degree in 3 semesters, research and teaching assistant jobs). That's not at all uncommon. Many folks take time off after schooling and before jumping into jobs.

As @JonStory wisely points out, if the idea of a 'gap year' is common in your country, this can also allow you to answer the question - often without any need for further elaboration. Gap years are becoming ever more common as something of a sabbatical, or a break to allow young people to travel and think about what they really want before committing to their career.

Be positive. Indicate that you are now ready to jump into a career with both feet. Be confident about the kind of career and job you are looking for.

Avoid the negatives.

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    If the idea of a 'gap year' is common in your country, this can also allow you to answer the question... Often without any need for further elaboration. Gap years are becoming ever more common as something of a sabbatical, or break to allow young people to travel and think about what they really want – Jon Story Sep 8 '15 at 23:43
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Here are two approaches. I recommend the second.

The first one probably looks better, but is less honest (and dishonesty while applying for a job is Very, Very Bad):

February 2015 - present: Seeking employment.

September 2013 - December 2014: Earned Masters of Something degree from College University

No one will likely ask what you did in January 2015. (See also other approach.)

The seven month job search isn't unusual. You may be asked (verbally) what you did during your job search. You should be prepared to describe (verbally) what steps you took during that time. You don't need a a long, detailed list, but you should describe something that normally takes a few months. It may be hard to answer in a way that's both honest (never lie while applying for a job) and positive.

Now consider a second approach:

August 2015 - present: Seeking employment.

September 2013 - December 2014: Earned Masters of Something degree from College University

Now it's clear you took several months off. You may be asked (verbally) what you did during that time. You should be prepared to describe (verbally) some things you accomplished, or at least tied to do, during that time. ("Recovered from grad school" is a good and honest way to describe some of it.)

Beyond that? Think back. What were some of your specific goals (aside from finding a job) from February through July? If you use any kind of calendar, see what was scheduled for that period. Any accomplishments during that period, work related or not, are good things to mention. Failure is an option; you may have to use the word "tried." (If possible, don't use it more than once.)

There may be days you didn't even get out of bed. Don't worry about them. Most of us have had them. You had them more frequently than you wanted. Sunk costs, move on.

Words not to use: anxious, burned out, depressed, etc.

Finally, as Joe Strazzere mentions, ensure that you really are recovered. Anxiety attacks and depressive episodes are no joke. You "just get over them" about as well as you "just get over" a seriously broken bone. Medical care is usually required. Getting care may increase the size of the gap, but there's little sense in getting a job but being unable to perform well. If I needed to do that, I'd say something such as

I got into a kind of bad place, and it took time and effort to get out of it. That's behind me; I'm looking forward to working at the Example Corporation, and I'm confident I'll do well here.

There's a great existing discussion elsewhere on this exchange: How do I explain being unemployed for nearly two years due to untreated depression?

By the way, I've read many thousands of resumes, and conducted hundreds of interviews. If you'd like to practice some answers, run them by me and I'll let you know how I'd judge them in a real interview.

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    "I've read many thousands of resumes, and conducted hundreds of interviews" - and in this time did the phrase "February - Present: Seeking employment" on a resume encourage you to call someone? If there's a gap, just leave the gap and own up to the fact that it's there. The advice not to mention "anxious, depressed" and so on for what you you've been doing the last few months is probably good. – Brandin Sep 9 '15 at 12:33

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