Lots of nurses take time off for family reasons. Some have babies and take years off before returning to work while others might spend time caring for elderly parents. But many nurses aren’t quite sure how to explain that work gap on a resume.
“A lot of people are afraid to reveal what is very commonplace,” says Scott Bennett, author of The Elements of Resume Style: Essential Rules for Writing Resumes and Cover Letters That Work and the blog WriteResumesRight. “People take time off for raising children, for taking care of loved ones, or to heal [from injury].”
Bennett says there’s no need to hide your time off. “It’s your real story,” he says. “You’re not making it up. If a human resources manager has an issue with the truth, it probably isn’t a good match anyway.” Let your resume reflect your experience honestly. That means not pushing up your exit date or your start dates to shorten the gap in any way, says Bennett.
Because you spent the time still active and involved, it’s important to relay your transferable skills in a way that makes sense to your profession and to hiring managers. So even if you have a fairly large gap, you can still list all the tasks you completed in a way that makes sense to the person looking at your resume.
How do you do that? Bennett advises using direct language that shows what you did. Anyone can say they are an organized go getter, but it’s the job candidate who describes pulling together a seminar for 200 colleagues based on recent research who will get a second look.
“You have already established before your break that you can establish and maintain relationships, and you have made the case for relevant skills,” says Bennett. “It’s irrefutable that you know how to do those things.”
Bennett even advises listing homemaker as a job position if you took time off to care for your kids and describing your duties in a professional manner. How can you make a busy day with three kids sound like solid business skills? By thinking for a minute about all you did.
Bennett says your unpaid work is relevant to employers, you just have to be able to show them why and how. Did you handle a mix of school hours, play dates, dance lessons, and t-ball? Then you also managed the complex (and probably often conflicting) scheduling logistics for a family of five. You probably also collaborated with several teachers to monitor academic success, says Bennett, and acted as a motivator, coach, and counselor, too.
And in the meantime, it’s likely you mediated many conflicts, managed and reconciled a changing budget, tracked and ordered necessary household supplies through several vendors (grocery store, Target, Sears), and established clear requirements and expectations. You probably also maintained vehicles and collaborated with your mate on solid investment decisions, says Bennett.
With some real thought to explain all your duties while you were at home in a way that makes sense in the business world, you probably can come up with a lengthy (and impressive) list.
If you shape your resume carefully to reflect the honest time off, the gap in your paid work will look just as relevant as before the break. You might have to switch your mindset a little so that you can also appreciate all you do in a typical day and why that would be valuable to an employer.
If you do that, and do it well, you’ll probably impress a hiring manager enough to come in to discuss the gap in your paid working time. That’s when you can get into the details a little deeper and explain how you kept up professionally so that you make the best candidate for them right now.
A gap on your resume isn’t a problem if you approach it the right way. Bennett says there’s no reason to hide a gap or to downplay it. As long as you can get across that your skills were continually sharpened and that the process made you an even better candidate, hiring managers will be able to make the connection with the position you are applying for.
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