Did you know or notice that we always remember the situations and events that actually occurred in the past, but made up things and lies we tend to forget? We are unsure of the details of made up stories, events or excuses….Test yourself and go back to a time when you made something up – can you really remember and reproduce the story consistently? Leaving aside the fact that even when we want to be truthful our memories may be false, or play games with us, on the whole, we tend to retain more of the factual truth than made up events and situations, dates or places. When it comes to your career and putting your CV together, I advocate only the truth – lying or exaggerating will not pay off in the long run. Apart from being unethical, false or exaggerated points on your CV are bound to catch up with you. Unconsciously half truths will undermine your confidence, and whether you notice it or not, you will feel uncomfortable at some point.
What about if you have had a career break? Many people take career breaks for various reasons, whether it is redundancy, health, family issues or caring for someone. Recruiters do not expect you to be perfect – no one is. Always choose ‘purpose over perfect’. Meaning, focus on your overall goal and make sure that the work or career you are pursuing is what you really love doing, something that you look forward to and something that gives you a true sense of fulfillment. If you are at crossroads and unsure of which route to take have a look at these resources to help you figure it out.
So what to do with those career breaks? First of all, you do not need to list all the experiences you had and in minute detail. If you have plenty of experience and years of employment, you can afford to scale back the detail. It is acceptable to show only the years and omit the months when listing your professional experience. Never be tempted to extend your period of employment in a previous position, just to cover up the gaps. There is every chance that the interviewer will call your previous employers to verify your time there. Or you may not be able to provide enough detail in the interview when reflecting back on a period of employment which is exaggerated, let alone made up. In any case, honesty is the best policy. Also, bear in mind that details such as reason for leaving employment do not need to be addressed in a CV. There is plenty of opportunity to address them in a cover letter or during the interview. The emphasis should be on honesty and also on a measured way in which to portray the circumstances – focus on the learning experience you have gained from the situation, whether it was a redundancy or personal reasons. There is nothing wrong or shameful about going through difficulties in life, periods of ill health or family issues. It is hard or nearly impossible to find anyone these days who has not experienced redundancy at some point. If you quit your job to regroup and consider other career paths – say so. If the gap is longer, you may benefit from attending courses or volunteering, taking up mentoring. If none of that is appropriate, how about starting a blog on a subject you are passionate about? Recruiters will look at how proactive you are and also what you bring to the role – if you consider all your experiences, both positive and negative as something that has helped you grow as a person, so will the recruiter.
Address any gaps on your CV early and plan carefully what you are going to say in an interview. Once out of the way, you will allow yourself to focus on your strengths and shine some light on your achievements, rather than leaving the unspoken explanations for gaps in your CV hang like a dark cloud over you. Confidence, honesty and positive attitude will go a long way with recruiters and as long as you are able to demonstrate your readiness to join the company and enthusiasm for the role, your prospects of employment will not be harmed by gaps in your career.