How to talk about “The Gap” in your resume
Do you dread the “What do you do?” question? The thought of being asked that question still makes me feel wobbly, unsure, and under pressure, because as an accompanying spouse I don’t currently have the stereotypical answer that people are expecting. But I’ve learned to be ok with that.
Four months after quitting my job and moving from Canada to Europe with my spouse, I visited my family back in Canada; while out for breakfast with my Dad, we ran into an old colleague of his who asked me “What do you do?” In my head, I panicked, because in that moment, all I could think was “I don’t ‘DO’ anything!” At least not in the traditional sense that he was asking about.
In reality, it’s not true that I ‘wasn’t doing anything’. I was taking a break from paid, traditional employment. And that’s ok!
Acceptable answers to that “What do you do?” question could have been:
I’ve just moved from Canada to Europe and I’m taking some time to settle in and figure out my next career steps.
My background is in education and coaching so I’m exploring opportunities in those fields.
I’ve just left a job I had for 10 years so I’m taking a break before diving into the next job.
Paid work isn’t my priority right now, I’m taking some time to settle and adjust in my new home, and I’m excited to explore that adventure!
I’m really interested in learning more about writing, publishing, and entrepreneurship so I’m currently exploring those areas of interest.
I’m the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of my household and I’ve spent the last 6 months managing our international move.
I’ve had a lot of conversations lately with accompanying spouses who are concerned about ‘The Gap’ in their resume. We feel a lot of shame, awkwardness, and uncertainty about how we will be perceived and judged by others if we’re not working or haven’t worked in the past.
The most important thing is that when you talk about what you are doing and what you have done, talk about it from a place of strength and confidence, rather than a place of weakness or lacking. The person you are speaking with will pick up on your enthusiasm if you are proud and confident; or they will pick up on your awkwardness if you feel ashamed or embarrassed.
There are some people and industries who still only value traditional paid employment. But many are becoming more open, flexible, and understanding of more diverse experiences.
So talk about the unpaid, informal, volunteer things you’ve been involved in. Talk about the things you’ve tried, tested, and explored. Talk about your superpowers; how you build community; how you’ve increased your emotional intelligence and resilience; and how all those things will be an asset in your next job. Talk about that training you attended or that event you helped coordinate. Talk about how you were quick to adapt to a new situation, and that you are capable of learning and thriving with change and under pressure.
As accompanying spouses, we tend to undersell ourselves and undervalue the unpaid, informal, or volunteer experiences we’ve had. I want all accompanying spouses to see the wealth of knowledge, experience, and grit you have that you can speak to. It’s all in how you spin it – in your own mind, and when you’re presenting it to others.
Give yourself more credit, and the people around will follow!
Liz Parsons has been an accompanying spouse since 2017, through 2 international relocations. She is a certified coach with 10+ years experience, a Master of Education degree, and the Founder of Comfort Challenge Coaching. Liz helps accompanying spouses and partners feel like themselves again after an international move.