August 10, 2022

How To Address A Work Gap on Your Resume - Ep.57

How To Address A Work Gap In Your Resume With Ease

Here's What You Should Do To Highlight Your Value

Due to Covid and the last couple of years, a lot of people are being left with work history gaps in their resumes. Today, we’re going to talk about some things you can do to address them!

In this episode, we talk about:

- Why a work gap is a big deal and what are the different ways you can do to address them?
- The different strategies you can do to focus on the value you can provide when you're asked about your work gap, whatever the reason is!
- What should you do if you're currently in an employment gap?

Ryan and Hannah also share some books that you can read if you wanna do some soul searching!

Enjoy the episode!

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Links and Notes from the Episode

Episode Transcript
Please enjoy this transcript or our episode!

Please note the transcript may have a few errors. We're human. It can be hard to catch all the errors from a full length conversation. Enjoy!

Ryan: Aloha folks and welcome back to Degree Free. We are your hosts, Ryan and Hannah Maruyama.

On this podcast, we share fundamentals we've discovered and the mistakes we've made while self-educating, getting work, building businesses and making money. We'll tell you how to make it happen. No degree needed. 

Hannah: Welcome back folks. We're always happy to have you here on the podcast. And if you wanna get our newsletter, which why wouldn't you, you are gonna wanna run over to and get our free weekly newsletter that has degree free news, job ideas, apprenticeships, resources, and stuff that Ryan and I think is cool.

So go on over and get that now. 

Ryan: Yep, absolutely. And let's get into today's episode. Today we are gonna be talking about how to address an employment history gap on your resume. 

Hannah: This is a huge one right now because everybody is struggling with this because of COVID. 

Ryan: Yeah. And so let's just get into it. I guess the first thing that we're gonna be talking about is like, why is a work gap, a big deal?

Hannah: I think the traditional answer is it shows that you're unemployable or something is wrong with you. But I think that something that is worth noting here is that hiring is just really risky for employers 'cause it costs time and it costs money and they have to pick correctly. 

Ryan: Yeah, exactly.

And so hiring managers are just. They're willing to do whatever they can in order to cut down that risk, as you said. And even if that means using rules of thumb, that may be inaccurate. So they'll use a rule of thumb that says like, okay well, if you were unemployed for a certain amount of time, or if you had a work history gap, then you must not be employable.

Why would I go with somebody that was out of work for two years? Versus this other person that's been working for the last two years. 

Hannah: Yeah, like right wrong. That's just how they're, this is how they're looking at it. While I think that stigma now is much, much more reduced as a result of the fact that so many people were outta work due to things that were beyond their control.

So now I think maybe it's probably a little bit better just cuz somebody could just say, oh, it was COVID and they'd be like, oh yeah, that makes sense. 

Ryan: Right? Exactly. 

COVID policies depending on where you live. 

Hannah: You could have been years,

Ryan: Right. 

Different for everybody, right? Yeah. I mean, it could be that your whole company went under, it could be that maybe you were furloughed for X amount of time and you thought you were getting your job back

Hannah: and it didn't happen.

Ryan: Never happened. It just never happened. How do we deal with it? . So the first thing that we're gonna do when we're dealing with it, the first thing we can do is just "creative formatting". And so the first thing, and this is specifically with things that are on tip, like really on your resume, right?

The first thing that we can do is you can simply choose to omit the month on your resume. And you can just go with years. 

Hannah: A lot of times too. It's just what that does is it just eliminates, a lot of wondering for no reason, like just put years. Like why put months, 'cause then just why?

Just, why? 

Ryan: I will say that, especially if you're an employment gap is small and if you just omit months and you just go with years, if your employment gap was just a few months, nobody's gonna notice if you just put years.

Hannah: Most people are not going to

Ryan: Right. Exactly. 

Hannah: And they're not gonna care. 

Ryan: Exactly.

And so the second way, as far as creative formatting goes is that you can go with a lot of, you can go with a whole different type of resume. So when most people think of his resumes, they think of chronological or. more accurately, I suppose, is reverse chronological. 

Hannah: Right? You put all your work history up at stop, 

Ryan: Right?

So everybody knows how it's, how it is. So it's your most recent to your, next, most recent 


Hannah: and so on and so on, 

Ryan: You can do a whole new format called functional resume. And the resume structure of that is gonna be where you're focusing more on the skills that you've acquired and what you can do for the company with those skills.

Right. So with that type of resume and we'll have some links to the different types of resume structure in the show notes, 'cause this episode's a little, it's a little tough to kind understand if you're not looking at a resume it's it's visual. Right? Exactly. So we'll put some, links in the show, notes, but what we're gonna wanna do with the functional is focus on the skills that you've required and what you can do for the company. Another thing that you can do as well is you can maybe make a larger professional summary or objective statement at the top, and what this all does is it works to push your work history down to the bottom.

Right. So you focus on what you can do for the company, , what skills you have and what your professional summary or what you're trying to do with your objective statement 

Hannah: Value first, basically, 

Ryan: Right. You're putting that all at the top and then your work history kind of gets buried at the bottom

Hannah: Mm-hmm 

Cause your work history, ideally your work history is more boring than your skillset. You'd rather than be compelled by what you can do than what you have done. Yeah. 

Ryan: You know, this type of resume- 

Hannah: There's so much resume advice and different. Yeah. 

Ryan: Right. It absolutely matters the way you use it, but definitely experiment. 

Hannah: Mm-hmm. Because there's no wrong necessarily way to do it.

There's just different ways. 

Ryan: Right. And if it gets you a job, it 

gets you a job. 

Hannah: Mm-hmm and so it was right if it worked. 

Ryan: So definitely, those are two ways that you can actually address it on your resume without doing anything else. Without really changing your resume too much just by formatting it a little bit differently.

We can address it from different angles. The next thing that we're gonna, that I wanted to talk about is. Just telling them what you've been doing.

Hannah: I like this approach because it's really straightforward. Tell them what the world is going on. I like this too, especially for stay-at-home parents, especially. That's a question that we get a lot. I was like, I've been a stay-at-home mom for however long and like, how do I show that on a resume? I was like, just. Tell them, that's what you're doing. I don't think that people look at that and go, oh, well that's easy. right. Like, nobody's gonna look at that and go, oh yeah, like you were a stay, you were a stay at home parent.

Well, that's easy. Like that's a lot of work. Everybody knows that. 

Ryan: Yep. Absolutely. 

And not only that, but as exacerbated by COVID and COVID policies and everything like that. A lot of people are going to be much more forgiving or at least understanding of that. Right. You can just easily say that I was a stay at home parent and I didn't feel safe for my kids to be at daycare or for my kids to be at school or whatever.

Hannah: Or there was no one else to watch them.

Ryan: Right. There was no one else to watch them, whatever, whatever it is and. I mean,

Hannah: people know,

Ryan: People are gonna understand that it's not like it's not like their life wasn't also affected by it. 

Hannah: If it didn't happen to them, it probably happened to someone they knew.

Ryan: Right. 

The other thing is that. If you took time to pursue self-employment or freelance opportunities, then just say it. 

Hannah: Oh my gosh. The amount of small business owners, this drives me nuts too. And I realize I used to do it, but since I've, since I've realized, if you are a small business owner, listen up, do not leave that off of your resume, especially if it makes a gap.

Why would you do that? You, you did more work because you were self-employed that means that you were running the entire business. Right. But they leave it off. Like it's not employment. 

It is. 

 It's so much work and you did so much stuff too. Put that on your resume. Don't leave it off. Especially if it leaves a gap, especially then.

Ryan: Absolutely. And. I don't get it either. I mean, I used to do this too right. And the thing about it is that nobody's gonna look down at you because now you struck it on your own and you did it for two years, five years, whatever. and now, okay. Maybe it's not making as much money as it, you, whatever the reason is, and it might not be that it's not making enough money.

It might be that

Hannah: healthcare,

Ryan: or it doesn't take up as much as your time as it, as it used to, or as you thought, and you can pick up another job, whatever the reason is. Yeah. There's no reason to leave that off your resume because it's so valuable.

Listing the skills that you've acquired during this time and what you've done, your accomplishments and what you've created is huge. 

Hannah: Yeah. 

Ryan: And it's totally, absolutely relevant to any role that you're applying to 

Hannah: it's work you did people don't leave it off. It's super important to explain that.

Ryan: Freelancing, owning your own business. Anything you did like that do not leave that off. It's good. Put it on there. 

If you took classes for like online, if you took classes online, 

Hannah: Of any kind 

Ryan: of any kind, assuming that there are professional classes, like if you're trying to be a graphic design, person or whatever. 

Hannah: And you've been working in a bootcamp or a course, or whatever, 

Ryan: coding 

Hannah: alone,

Ryan: or if you're trying to get into sales or

Hannah: for six months, 

Ryan: and you, took these online courses, put it on your resume.

Hannah: Say that's what you're doing. 

Ryan: Say that's what you were doing. You were furthering your career. You were. 

Hannah: Learning portfolio building experience, getting. 

Ryan: Exactly and craft a story that makes sense to the job that you're applying to. 

Hannah: Make it make sense to them. 

Ryan: Right? Exactly. Okay.

Maybe it's not super relevant, your graphic design class. If you're trying to be a janitor, I mean, maybe it's not super relevant. Right. But if it makes sense. Then try to weave it as best as possible. 

Hannah: Yeah.

Ryan: Now I wanna be very clear about one thing, then that is what to avoid. Right? And what we wanna avoid is. basically highlighting 

Hannah: irresponsibilities 

Ryan: Yeah. You don't want to go up there and say, man, I hit it big on crypto. And so I quit my job. Like I balled outrageous for two years, yachts. Tesla's, vacations, Vegas. You know what I mean? And then, and now I'm broke and- 

Hannah: Because the market took a dip, I need a job.

Ryan: I need a job, right. That might be true. And you might have balled outrageous.

Hannah: Don't tell them that. 

Ryan: Good for you. 

Hannah: I hope you had fun 'cause now you gotta work again.

Ryan: Good for you. That's great. We're not gonna say that let's gonna

Hannah: let's leave that one out. 

Ryan: Right. Exactly. 

And so as long as you don't say that you can recover from an employment gap.

Hannah: Yeah. So write that down. People don't, don't tell them that you were a doge coin millionaire for a year and six months. Leave that off, 

Ryan: Right? 

Exactly. Unless it's, for some reason it was relevant maybe 

Hannah: unless you're applying to a crypto job 

Ryan: or maybe you had a trading strategy that got you everything. 

Hannah: Yeah. You wrote a formula, an algorithm or something, 

Ryan: Right? Exactly. Or you built an app unless it was relevant. See the thing that you're doing, but you know, it's like, oh yeah, I hit it big and now I'm broke. I need a job. 

Hannah: Yeah. Don't. Silence is best in this place.

Ryan: Pretty much anything short of that, you can recover from a gap in your resume. Especially nowadays. 

Hannah: Yeah. Okay. So the next thing is gonna be focusing on the future. So don't focus on the past and say that for the two, the last two years you were trying to go pro at Call of Duty. This is something that let's not focus on.

 Even if that's what you were doing, let's not tell them that we're not gonna do that. They don't wanna hire you if you tell them that. 

Ryan: Yeah. You're not gonna tell them that you spent six months not putting pants on and leaving the house. Yeah, you did nothing but grub and. Uber eats. Yeah. We're not gonna talk about that.

Hannah: There's no shame in the game, but don't tell 'em that. 

Ryan: Don't focus on the year that you haven't been putting your skills to work. Yeah. Right. Like we're gonna be focusing on the future. Right. And we kind of touched on this a little bit last episode as well, or I think a, maybe a couple of weeks ago but we wanna make sure that we can focus on the future and how your skills can bring value to the company

Hannah: going forward, 

Ryan: going forward. In that position, whatever value is in that position, whether it's saving money, increasing revenue, decreasing costs, increasing efficiency. Whatever value is in that.

You're gonna be focusing on that. 

Hannah: Yeah. Don't say this is what the past was like, you know what you're trying to get them to look towards is the future, which is good. 'Cause most people wanna look toward more towards the future than towards the past. So just direct towards the future. Exactly. In the future, on your team, all do this, not in the past, I did this, right?


Ryan: Like I said, it's becoming much more. Acceptable to have work apps on your resume, but if your employer or your perspective, employer, keys in on it, there's gonna be at least two things you wanna do. The first thing is gonna be for yourself. And you've gotta remember while you're sitting in that seat and it's probably in the interview, right?

Because that's probably where we're at. We're in the interview. We're at the negotiation stays probably not the negotiation. We're probably interviewing mm-hmm and they're bringing this up. They see the two years that you just totally omitted it. Let's say you didn't use creative formatting and let's tell 'em, let's say that you didn't tell them what you've been doing.

Hannah: Mm-hmm 

Ryan: You just totally omitted it. You said, I, last time I worked was 2018 and then 2020 you had a job to current and you're like, what did you do from 2018 to 2020? Yeah. Let's say, what were you doing? Right. Exactly. You have to remember that there is a reason that you are in that room, right?

Remember that? This person, whoever it is, they probably saw your resume before, and if they didn't see your resume, the recruiter saw your resume, whoever it was the gatekeeper for you sitting down in front of the decision maker, they saw your resume and you made it. You maybe not deserve to be there, but you've made it there.

Hannah: Mm-hmm.

Ryan: And there's something that they saw in you. that means, okay, you can get around this, just remain calm, be confident. Going forward. You do belong in that room. There's a reason you're there. 

Hannah: Yep, they let you in already. 

Ryan: So, you know, there's a bunch of people that weren't called back. 

There's a bunch of people that apply to that job. Everybody's applying to jobs nowadays 


 They didn't get the call back. You did. So you're already doing better than they are. So you just gotta remember that. The second thing is exactly what we're talking about now. So just spin the conversation around and make it about the future, 


Hannah: Like they say, oh, what are we doing? You give whatever explanation that you've come up with, and then you just say, What I'd really like to talk about is how I'm gonna use this to do this with your company or what I'd really like to know about is this program you folks are building out, right?

If you did your research on the company, before you go into the interview and you say, what I'm really excited about is this initiative you folks are doing. I think I can help with that like this. 

Ryan: Exactly.

Hannah: And now they're looking at now in their head, they're seeing you with the company in the future, not worried about whatever you did two years ago, or six months ago, 

Ryan: Crafting the story to make it about the future and making it so that they understand that you are also a part of the future of that company as well and where that company's going and where you're gonna help them get to. 

Hannah: Yeah. You gotta remember that recruiters are human and the past is boring and the future is exciting. So just, just lean into that too. 

Ryan: Yeah. So this will probably be an episode all by itself, but quickly, some things you can do are figuring out what you're missing in order to get into your next role.

Right. I mean, that's a big one. So. Looking what we mean by that is kind of looking at the job descriptions that you're looking at, figuring out the skills that you lack on that and then going and get those skills. So another example is like you're applying to all these jobs and you're actually getting interviews but you're not sealing the deal. All right. Well, you probably have to work on your interview skills. And so take this time to work on your interview skills. Take this time to learn the skills that you don't already have. 

Hannah: And another thing is, if you're looking to get into a new field and you have little to no experience or qualifications or skill in this area, what you need to do, and this is something we call it, finding a job backwards and it's actually in our Degree Free workbook, which is on our, which is on our website, but we go into depth about this and that is you need to be breaking down job descriptions and figuring out what the minimum effective dose of skill, qualifications, certification, et cetera, is needed to get the attention of someone who is looking at the resumes for these jobs.

 It's really simple to do this. It just takes work. It's not easy, but it is simple, and, you just have to remember like, minimum effective dose. There's only, there's a certain amount that you need in order to get your foot in the door. You can take online classes, you can educate yourself.

We live in the age of the internet and so you can find pretty much anything online to teach yourself. 

Ryan: Defining the job backwards is a really huge thing that a lot of people are missing. Right. I mean, we, I'm not trying, I'm guessing here because people talk to us all the time and they're like, how do I do that?


And I'll admit, I was one of those people prior to thinking about it right prior to coming up with this right. Looking at a job it's so simple. When you think about it though, looking at a job description and then picking out the skills. So before, I really knew about finding a job backwards. I would look at job descriptions and I would be like, whatever it says, I don't know, Excel advanced excels skills and whatever the functions are that they want me to know.

I don't know those. That's not, that's not me, whatever. 

Then I would, I would X outta that browser tab. Oh, yep. That's not me. X that's not me. X I'd be self eliminating myself from these jobs. What I should be doing. What I should have done is I should have taken, taken notes of all the similarities of all the job feels. Okay.

Excel keeps popping up. Excel keeps popping up. Yep. I better go learn excel. 

Hannah: I keep seeing Adobe premier. I keep seeing premier, 

Ryan: right? I yep. Exactly. I keep seeing illustrator, illustrator keeps coming up. 

Trello, Trello keeps coming up, Asana, you know, all these different softwares or all these different skills or whatever, you know?

You're like, okay. Instead of you thinking, okay, that's not me. I need to go find a job that has my skillset. You can think of it backwards and say all those are the skills that I need. This is now my laundry list, or this is my to-do list 

Hannah: of what I need to learn. 

Ryan: Of what I need to learn. And like I said, we go into depth in that, in our workbook if you guys wanna check it out. Yeah. But 

Hannah: What's funny about that is like really we, we call it finding a job backwards, but just really finding a job forwards. Right. Cause in the US, we teach it backwards. We're like just guess and buy whatever thing and then go see where that thing fits. No, that makes absolutely no sense.

That's stupid. Right. Because why would we go to a third party and buy something? When the person who we need the thing from which is the employer is telling us what they need and the thing that we're buying may or may not fit because we didn't look at the employer first. 

Ryan: Absolutely. 


Hannah: Yeah. It's crazy.

Ryan: The last thing that I wanted to talk about is when we hear this all the time, which is why I want to talk about it is like when you're in an employment gap, a lot of times it's easy to get depressed or it's easy to get down on yourself.

Maybe not clinically depressed or anything like that, but alright, it's easy to get down on yourself and it's easy to get lost in the woods and maybe not understand what you want do.

 A lot of people say you just got laid off and due to COVID and you've been outta work for like two years.

And now you've been applying to jobs here and there. You've been applying to jobs here and there. And this, these are stories that we hear all the time but now you're just like, man, I don't know what I wanna do. So you have, you gotta do a little bit of soul searching. I mean, and we have personal friends, family, that's going through this right now.

I went on a whole

Hannah: vision quest?

Ryan: Vision quest or whatever, anyway, I don't wanna get into it, but you know, I did. By myself as a story for another time, a tangent for another time, this episode was getting way too long as it is. So, but one of the things, one of the books that really helped me was Travels with Charlie it's by John Steinbeck.

And it's just 

Hannah: some must read people.

Ryan: It's just him. It's John Steinbeck going around, the entire US in his pickup truck at, with his dog, Charlie. Yep. And it's just, a whole story, not a story. I mean, it's like a autobiography, 

but yeah,

Hannah: He did it. 

He actually did it

Ryan: Right. 

 About his journey.

Hannah: Mm-hmm

Ryan: And he did it as a man. He was a man. He was married. 

Hannah: Yeah. 

 It's funny at the beginning of the book, he just tells his wife. He's like. You, he basically, he's getting a little older, right. He's getting on in years. And he basically. Just tells his wife, wife I love you. But if I don't leave now, I'll be an old man.

And she's like, all right, bye . 

Ryan: Yeah. And basically you don't wanna be with the person that doesn't search for a soul. 

Hannah: Yeah. 

He phrases it as only John Steinback can, 

Ryan: I don't wanna be somebody that doesn't know what they want in the world, and you don't wanna be with somebody that doesn't know what they want. Yeah. And therefore I must go. And. You know, so without getting too sobby or anything like that, read it Travels with Charlie. We'll lean to it in the show notes. And by far for me personally, and let me just rant real quick on my last tangent of this episode, I promise it is the best book that John Sobeck ever, ever wrote. 

Hannah: It is. 

Ryan: East of Eden. Horrible. 

Hannah: I love East of Eden

Ryan: Grapes of Wrath, yawn,

Hannah: awful.

Ryan: And then Of Mice and Men, that thing. That thing is garbage. 

Hannah: Okay. It is a travesty. It is a travesty like it might be a crime.

The fact that is this John Steinbeck book that they have picked to make people read in school because that will guarantee you never get to any of the right. 

That book is the worst.

Ryan: Like I said, I just cropped all over his other, his other books wrote

Hannah: East of Eden is good, but like-

Ryan: Sure. Whatever, 

maybe for some, for some people 

Hannah: that have terrible taste. 

Ryan: Yeah, exactly. For those that have terrible taste books East of Eden. Is a great book

Hannah: East of Eden is a great book 

Ryan: for the mature people that understand like nuance and sure. Right. You know, the enlightened, 

Hannah: the educated, okay.

Ryan: Obviously 

Hannah: probably cuz I don't have college degree. 

Ryan: Yeah, exactly. 

It's that's exactly right.

Hannah: I can't appreciate it

Ryan: anyway guys. Yeah. Check all those books. Let me know.

Hannah: Don't, except for my event, don't read that.

Ryan: Let me know how wrong I am. Contact at let me know how wrong I am, but really Travel with Charlie, if you guys are really soul searching, there's a few other books as well, but that one really helped me personally when I was going through something like that as well. 

And without further ado, I think that's pretty much it. 

Hannah: Yes. 

Ryan: All right, Excellent. Thank you guys so much for listening.

If you guys like this episode, please like, and subscribe. If you guys wanna support the podcast, the best way that you can do is by leaving us a short review, wherever you get your podcast. If you guys need any links to any of the resources, the books that we mentioned, all that that's gonna be at

We have all the show notes there for you guys. 

Hannah: And then if you wanna get a weekly email from Ryan and I, which of course you do, you're gonna wanna go, go on over to degree, to get a weekly email from us about jobs, apprenticeships, news, books, and other things that Ryan and I think are cool.

Ryan: I think that's pretty much it until next time guys. Aloha.

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