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September 5, 2007 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Returning to the job market after a hiatus, what can I expect?

In January, I had nearly exhausted my unpaid leave due to a severe bout of depression. Rather than run it out to the point where I might be tinged with the "fired" tag, I saved them the trouble and resigned and have been riding my savings ever since.

I feel like I'm ready to rejoin the ranks of the employed, but I'm apprehensive about the impression I'm going to give. As background: I'd only been at that job for six months, preceded by a three-month period of unemployment (looking for a good job that would relocate me to the big city), preceded by a two-and-a-half year job from which I was laid off (restructuring). That was my first job out of college.

How worried should I be about the holes in my résumé? How can I answer the questions they raise in ways that are basically honest but don't make me look like a deadbeat? What level of detail (or lack thereof) should I expect to give regarding my depression? I'm grateful for any general or specific advice you can provide.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I wrote the following article on Explaining a gap in your employment history for a jobs portal. It may help. (This is not my own site.)

You could leave out the 6-month job. Do you have other work you can say you were doing? I'd avoid disclosing your medical situation.
posted by acoutu at 2:49 PM on September 5, 2007

Someone I know is looking for work with a gappy CV owing to depression. The temping agent actually said "what we're really concerned about is that you haven't been in prison, and that you don't keep getting fired."

So whatever you do, don't leave them with the impression that you're covering up prison time or incompetence.

(aside: in my neck of the woods, ex-convicts looking for work often say "I've been on the farm", leading to hilarious misunderstandings with another friend of mine who was in her first recruitment job. "Ah, so you have agricultural experience? Great!")
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:42 PM on September 5, 2007

Come up with something to say about your time off. Lying is never a good idea, but I'd talk up any thing constructive you did: job research, travel, improving computer or other skills, etc.

I'm starting a new job in a few weeks after having taken the last year off. However, I wasn't fired from or have a medical reason for leaving my last job--I simply quit out of frustration. Most of my interviews centered around the gap in my work history: why I quit the last job, what I've been doing since and why a new employer should trust me to stick around this time. I gave good reasons for leaving the last job and talked about the job research and introspection I did while unemployed.

You should work up a short (<1 min) and long version of your story and run it by a few friends or former colleagues. i found that i had my best interviews when i quickly wrapped up the resume review portion and got into a conversation about my skills and what i was looking for in a new>

And since you have only a total of 3 years experience (2.5 year job + 6 month job), I'd be inclined to list the 6-month job since it's a significant portion of your work experience. I have about the same amount of experience and I listed by previous job which also lasted 6 months.
posted by mullacc at 6:49 PM on September 5, 2007

i'm not in HR, but i did once take a flyer and lived on my savings in order to write full-time for several months. if you have any creative tendencies at all, that might be a good white lie.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:49 PM on September 5, 2007

I took two years off starting in 2004 and got another job a year and a half ago. I just said I was traveling and working on music, which I was, but pretty much anything non-employment related will pass the question by.
posted by rhizome at 10:53 PM on September 5, 2007

How can I answer the questions they raise in ways that are basically honest but don't make me look like a deadbeat?

I think this is tricky to answer based on the little information you've given. If there's any way at all you can put a positive spin on it, such as talking about something you've done in the time, that would clearly help. The problem is with depression that is often unlikely, and also if you are still feeling low at least some of the time you may struggle to find ways to present yourself well.

I've been in a rather similar situation - if you'd like to discuss further, email is in profile.
posted by paduasoy at 7:07 AM on September 9, 2007

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