Handling Time Gaps on a Resume

As the baby boomers begin to age and retire, the jobs they leave are expected to provide a boost to the hiring market. However, aging of this segment of the population also causes another issue for the workforce – caring for aging parents. More and more often, workers in their thirties and forties are facing the task of caring for their parents who are in ill health.

While caring for aging parents is as old as time, the dynamics of our modern society have changed and now make it a significant issue in many lives. Fifty years ago, most women were still in the home full-time and families weren’t as geographically separated as today. Elderly parents either lived down the street, next door, or even in the back bedroom of the extended family home. If a parent was ill or needed assistance, it was simply a part of life, not an event that caused huge turmoil in the lives of the adult children.

In the eighties and early nineties, if a woman was returning to the workforce, it was usually because she had taken a few months off to have a child. Today, both men and women are taking leaves of absence to care for aging parents and then facing the hurdle of getting back in the employment market when their duties are done. It can seem like a daunting prospect.

A common question we receive is “How do I explain this on my resume?” The simplest and best answer is “Tell the truth.” This is a more and more common occurrence and employers are accustomed to seeing applicants who have taken time off from their careers to care for their aging parents. A small descriptive blurb on the resume is appropriate to explain the time gap, something like:

Leave of Absence May-December, 2004
Took extended leave in order to care for aging mother and see to her final needs.

Beyond that, nothing is needed. If the employer has any questions about it, he/she can bring it up in an interview, the correct forum for giving more details concerning your familial responsibilities.

But what if you need to continue working while taking significant time away from work to care for a parent? Talk to your present employer and explain the situation first. It is possible that you can alter your schedule to fulfill both your needs and the needs of the employer. Maybe a work-at-home situation would be appropriate. Possibly a job-share situation could be created where you work part-time and share your employment responsibilities with a co-worker with similar scheduling needs. There are a great many scenarios that may be worked out to accommodate both your needs and the employers’.

If your employer is unbendable or the type of work you do just won’t allow for changes in method, you may need to seek another position. If that is the case, you need to make sure you have a great resume and that you are prepared to be clear with prospective employers about your situation and what your requirements will be. Do not accept a job and then blind-side the employer with your need for time off or flex-hours.

Remember, employers are people, too. More than likely they are facing concerns with caring for their parents or they see that concern on the horizon. By being up-front and honest with your employer, you will be more likely to come to a satisfactory arrangement where you can work and take care of Mom and Dad.

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