I am a healthcare professional. I took time off to care for both my parents with terminal illness at different times, but within a 5 year period. I was burnt out on nursing and just wanted a routine job after they died, so I worked a few retail jobs.

This went on for a little longer than I'd hoped for, and now I want to get back to my "real" job. How can I explain those unrelated jobs to prospective interviewers?

I'd like to have them realize this before an interview via a cover letter, so that they're not taken aback. I've googled this question in all sorts of ways with not much luck.

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    The explanation in the question seems fine. Just tidy up the wording a bit. – Patricia Shanahan Sep 5 '17 at 2:35
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    Took a shot at rewording the post, feel free to modify it further to fit your needs – DarkCygnus Sep 5 '17 at 3:01
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    @GrayCygnus That was an excellent edit of the question. – Frank FYC Sep 5 '17 at 5:12
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    Don't mention you got burnt out – Kilisi Sep 5 '17 at 6:02

In a similar question I already recommended this video: Weird Game Dev: Unusual Roles and How to Get Them. Although it focuses on the game industry the message can be applied to any career.

The bit that I love is the following: Your CV tells a story, focus on it. His example about himself is the following: he was a boxing coach, and community manager and editor of an online magazine. Which is the common thread? He sees himself as a mentor who helps others to improve.

Try to frame those retailer jobs juxtaposed to your healthcare jobs in such a way that they tell a coherent story. Also, keep a positive tone about how that experience will help you in your next roles (so avoid mentioning things like 'burn out'!).

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My take is that you don't (in the resume).

You tailor your experience with the job description at hand. With healthcare, you have different fields and specialties. Without knowing what exactly you are applying to, it would be difficult to ascertain what to do exactly.

Look for keywords in the job description, does it say "Provide Care to Patients"? Then perhaps a retail-equivalent would be "resolve customer complaints". The first asks for people-skills, the second states that you have people skills.

Although the lines connecting the Job at hand and your Experience are not very exact, it will be something to springboard off of in your applications. Now in your cover letter you can then go on to explain the circumstances surrounding your choice of employment these past few years. "Take care of family, I found employment in a number of part time retail roles... but now I am back on track and want to pursue a career in Healthcare X".

If the role doesn't allow for a cover letter, try to reach out directly to the hiring manager or main point of contact and ask if you can submit one. My bet is that smaller agencies/companies/clinics would be more receptive and attentive to individual applications versus large agencies/companies/hospitals.

Best of luck.

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