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Some background

I was formerly ambitious and driven. I had some great side gigs during university, got an academic scholarship to study for free and after graduating I found a position in the head office of a bank.

I hated this job and resigned after 9 months. I communicated that I was grateful for the opportunity and was happy to stick around as long as needed. My manager was understanding, and I left on good terms.

I decided to take some time off and used savings to do a lot of travel and moved overseas. I've since been getting by with freelancing work.

However, I had a medical issue that resulted in me becoming visually impaired and unable to work for 1.5 years. I've managed to adapt and can now work with magnification. I now have half the sight of a normal person, and you'd probably never notice I'd had any issues if you saw me out and about.

My Problem

I'm looking for a full-time position that challenges me and pays well, but I feel

  1. I'll be overlooked in favour of candidates who have similar experience but no history of medical issues
  2. I'll be seen as a potential problem / lawsuit in the future
  3. My references are all now 4-5 years old

I have a big gap where I was travelling (1 year), struggling with health (1.5 years) and throughout that freelancing and just making ends meet.

My Options

A friend has informed me to just say I worked for his firm as a developer for four years. I'm not so comfortable with this as while I'm okay at what I do, I don't think I am anywhere near the ability of someone who has worked full-time for four years. He says they will think I'm just looking for work to fill in a down period in my freelancing and will jump ship as soon as I land the next deal. However, I also feel I am above the level of a junior starting out, as I have been managing my work as well as P&L, clients and the occasional freelancer for a few years now.

My parents tell me it takes courage to go through what I've gone through and come out a better person and that it shows I'm determined to keep working, even when things are looking bad. They believe I should be honest and tell them about the ways in which I've matured and what I've learned though my experiences.

My Question

How do I overcome such a large gap in my resume? I'm worried if I'm honest my medical history will hurt my chances, but I'm not completely comfortable making up experience like my friend suggested.

closed as primarily opinion-based by jimm101, Lilienthal, Chris E, gnat, panoptical Apr 1 '16 at 18:05

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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I would advise being honest.

Taking your friend's advice of falsifying your job history can unravel easily, e.g. if a potential employer meets one of your supposed ex-colleagues at a conference and asks casually about your time there, they will be surprised and upset to know that you didn't work there at all. This could lead to dismissal (if you are employed) or not receiving a job offer (if you are not employed).

Remember that to get a job, you have to sell yourself. Your freelance work has given you experience. Aim to highlight the skills you've developed, the achievements you made and how they can benefit the potential employer. In terms of references being 4-5 years' old, can you get a reference from some clients? I would argue a reference from a client is more powerful than one from an employer, as most employer references will just state your job title, length of service, attendance record and disciplinary record. Whereas a client recommendation is much stronger, as they can talk about the benefits you brought to them.

Lastly, in terms of addressing ill health, I would advise not mentioning it on your application. You have a way of coping with it (magnification), so it is not worth mentioning unless asked.

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Keeping track of lies is hard work

I am on the honesty side. Thank your friend and ask him to be a character reference if you need one, who can vouch for your work ethic etc, but saying having worked for a company while you actually didn't is a cause that some employers may use to fire you under falsifying the past work history.

About your health condition, if you are in the US, you know you don't have to disclose it. They may guess that something is wrong but can not come flat out and ask if you are legally blind or any such question. As long as you can perform whatever is expected of you, this is all the employer should be interested in. Won;t there be jerks ? Yes, but it is best to avoid those places anyway.

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Its your choice to share medical information.

Somehow the notion of continuous employment is still prevalent as well as the "job for life". There are many circumstances that take people out of the employment market. Travelling is a legitimate reason for taking time out of work (some people are fortunate enough to turn it into means of income - travel writers for example). Having children, long term illness, return to education even being in prison are all reasons why people are in and out of the labour market.

Resumes are presented to employers as a linear timeline to explain how you got your skills and experience. Your references don't necessarily have to be from former employers, but common convention dictates that there should be a continuous timeline and reference from current employer. It also makes it easier to slot someone into a new or existing role if they are currently doing that role somewhere else. For example if an employer has a vacancy for high altitude, deep sea welding its easier for them to take someone if they are currently employed as a mountain top underwater welder.

If you choose to be fraudulent on your resume to cover the gap because a friend has recommended you do it because they have a common convention view of traditional resumes, then you may get caught out and have to take the consequences of your choice.

Alternatively, embrace the lifestyle choices that occurred and see that it nothing to be ashamed of. The only issue I could see from presenting a gappy resume is that it may take longer for you to find an employer who is prepared to see past it.

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