Explaining Gaps in Your Employment History

If you’re feeling anxious about explaining a gap in employment history due to the recent economic downturn, or if you had a stretch of unemployment at another time in your career, take heart. Admissions committees are comprised of human beings who can and will empathize with someone who has faced a lay-off and lived to tell the tale.

Earlier this week, the Forté Forum blog posted a reassuring piece with tips for those with an “interrupted” resume or discrepancies in their GMAT scores. Forté fellow Laura Bentzien, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business (2012), writes that the key is to feel confident in explaining that gap. By telling admissions what you did with that unaccounted-for time and what you learned, you effectively remove any ambiguity that could otherwise have led to negative inferences.

“Put slightly differently, it can actually be pretty meaningful to show how you adapted to adverse conditions and created a new path for yourself during a difficult time,” Bentzien writes, adding, “For all the Ad Com knows, you took that ‘time off’ to volunteer in Guatemala. Either way, explain with confidence and don’t feel disadvantaged by a glitch in your application.”

The same can be said of explaining discrepancies in your GMAT scores. Many people need to take the test more than once to earn a score they are satisfied with, but worry how it may look to have a weak first score and relatively strong second score.

In this case, Bentzien writes that you must be able to explain–not excuse–the dramatic improvement. If necessary, reference other areas of your professional and academic achievements to demonstrate your consistently high-caliber performance.

Admissions committees repeatedly stress that no single element of your application will make or break your chances of acceptance. “The overall cohesion of your story is what will convince the admissions committee that you belong at their school,” Bentzien explains, “Not one specific component.”

So relax and have confidence in both your career successes and detours… It’s all in how you paint the picture.

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