Not only can that seem difficult when it comes to the résumé, it can feel like a gap in your life—double the discomfort, twice the unease in someone’s job search and networking. But just because there was a time you didn’t do anything in the gainful arena doesn’t mean you didn’t do anything to speak of.
Therefore, instead of suppressing your time out of the working world for job-search and networking purposes, embrace it! You may have gained valuable experience, and built marketable skills, to show for yourself.
Your résumé doesn’t have to be a “complete” account of anything.
Résumé writing of old meant a laundry list of everything you had ever done. That is not what matters on a résumé anymore. Take advantage of that fact. Your résumé isn’t even a “legal” document; it is your single most important marketing tool. You can set the right expectation in the reader’s mind by changing that section header from “Experience” to “Experience Highlights.”
A one-liner may be an option, but avoid “explaining” anything.
You may choose to put a brief phrase such as “Family leave of absence” or “Personal leave of absence,” but beyond that, any more details might generate more questions than they would answer. Just look at politicians when they are pressed for explanations. Having explaining to do means you are on the defensive, so why put yourself on the spot.
You do want to prepare for what to say when they ask, but that’s just the way to handle that—let them ask. When they call, and ask, it means they found your résumé interesting. Moreover, a potentially difficult subject is better raised when there is some conversational interaction, where you have more control of how things come across.
Speaking of “family leave of absence”:
This is presumably the single most frequent reason someone would have been out of the work force. You did gain and deepen lots of useful skills during that time.
If you raised kids, then you bring competencies in the areas of time and priority management, active listening, negotiating, putting out fires (let’s hope not literally), budgeting, logistics, and supply-chain management. Did you perhaps also hone your team-player qualities, possibly even your leadership, by participating in your PTA or by forming a neighborhood carpool?
If you were a caregiver for a loved one, then you may also have useful experience communicating with healthcare providers, speaking as an advocate, navigating the red tape of the insurance industry, and confronting the complexities of long-term care programs with resilience.
What if you just traveled the world?
While that may sound like you only did something for yourself, look at it as a way you fostered your openness to constant change, and continuously learning something new. That probably includes the broadening of your intercultural horizon, and your capacity for appreciating diversity. Maybe you can even add a foreign language to your lineup of skills.
There is much more to the intricacies of the professional persona that is you.
When you consult with a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, it will help unearth these facets of what you have to offer. The Résumé Writer will know how to use all that information to your advantage in crafting a powerful story of you that will help your next professional purpose find you sooner.