Understanding Career Gaps/Breaks

Lisa Matomola

Some professionals experience their career journey in so many different ways. When an individual’s career journey begins, what lies ahead of the journey is often unknown. Whether it is by choice or involuntary, employment gaps do occur in other professionals’ journeys. With careers being squiggly and taking different paths, many individuals find themselves with periods of unemployment. How does one address a career break/gap in their CV to a recruiter?

Educational Advancement

The most common and easy career break/gap that many take is that of advancing their studies. At times, employers may not grant an employee study leave to pursue their studies, especially if such studies are full-time and outside the country. Many employees are left with no choice but to resign from their work. An easy break to explain to a possible recruiter. This is also common for those who might want to completely take a career change and are pursuing a new field.

Entrepreneurial/Business Opportunities

As of late, I have come across professionals who were in the corporate world but took an entrepreneurial journey due to various reasons. Some couldn’t find a job in their industry and opted for business, while others found other opportunities that made more money than their current employment. However, running a business may be exciting, at the same time it comes with challenges. At times, the need to still fulfil one’s career goals in line with their studies is there. The time spent running a business in a different industry may cause a gap when it is time to move back to a preferred career path.

Diplomatic Mission/Relocation

In my almost three years as a coach, I have come to learn that those whose spouses are sent on diplomatic missions often have to give up their jobs/careers to fulfil such duties. Women, especially, find themselves in situations where they are no longer employed and the duration of their stay is normally more than five (5) years away and without a job. This means they are not active in the workplace but at times when they return, may still have the desire to work.


The Covid-19 pandemic has had such an impact on many careers. There are still employees who lost their job as a result of retrenchment and have not found work since then. The industries that continuously downsize also pose a threat to career gaps that may affect job seekers in the long run. There are those skills that may not necessarily be on the market anymore or due to saturation, may not be on demand.

Handling a career break/gap

Career gaps are not bad. What is bad is being idle during the period and not learning new skills. The world of work is constantly changing, thus it is important for job seekers to keep abreast with what is happening in their industries. When on a career break, it is advisable to continuously invest in oneself. Employers may not necessarily be interested in the gap, but rather what one did during the time. For entrepreneurs who may have ventured into businesses outside their careers, aligning or matching the experience is important. At times, if one has been out of the job market for too long, it is also crucial to make peace with the idea of not being on the same level with the peers, but lag behind due to the skills and experience mismatch.

Whenever I coach clients, I often stress the fact that, even if one leaves the workplace for any other reason, most of the principles as far as work being carried out are the same. What mostly change are the technological advancements which at times can be taught. If it’s not a career transition completely, self-development while out of the workplace will help with knowledge and skills.

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