Whether you got laid off, took a break to care for a loved, quit a job due to spouse relocation – employment gaps are a workforce norm across all industries and medical sales is no exception.
Nonetheless, the stigma persists. The worry continues that a gap is negative — especially when not clearly explained.
As an Executive Resume writer, I hear the question, “Should I address my employment gap?” all the time. As always, my response is “yes.” But how you address it depends on the situation.
Stick with the Truth
Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to addressing a career gap. Changing dates or making up a non-existent job is unethical and if you’re busted there’s no turning back.
Small Gaps: Leverage the Power of Formatting
For shorter career gaps, playing with formatting helps minimize the gap, making it becomes less of a red flag. In the before and after example below, it’s clear that shifting from a MM/YY format to a YEAR format helps camouflage the eight-month career gap.
Account Executive | XYZ Pharmaceuticals | Nov 2016–May 2018
Senior Sales Associate | Acme BioHealth | Feb 2013–Mar 2016
Account Executive | XYZ Pharmaceuticals | 2016–2018
Senior Sales Associate | Acme BioHealth | 2013–2016
Remove the months and voila! The gap closes.
Large Gaps: Capitalize on Your Cover Letter
By utilizing part of your cover letter to address the potential “elephant in the room,” you can help to address any issues or unspoken assumptions head-on. Explain the situation clearly and succinctly. Stick with the main facts as there is no need to go in-depth and insert whatever experience is applicable to show that your skills remain current.
A few examples:
GAP SCENARIO #1: Parenting/Childcare
“After a successful 10-year career where I catapulted from a pharmaceutical sales rep to a District Manager, I took maternal leave. During that period, I have kept current on Salesforce’s CRM. Now that my son is poised to enter kindergarten, I am eager to return to help your company launch its new territory.”
GAP SCENARIO #2 Corporate Downsizing:
“I spent eight years revitalizing the NC/SC territory that grew 30 percent YOY under my direction as the Regional Manager leading a team of nine. When our company was acquired, they realigned my territory and reduced the workforce by 50 percent.
Post-acquisition, I’ve conducted deep-dive market research and come up with a sizeable physician target list that will enable me to hit the ground running should you consider me a great fit for the role.”
In both scenarios, the language makes your reasons for unemployment loud and clear. More importantly, the narrative reinforces your interest in the role to make it clear you are 100 percent committed to remaining in the workforce.
Recall Expert Acts of Kindness
Think back on the times during your gap that you’ve lent your expertise to a friend. Next, convert these acts of friendship into professional-speak, making it read like job experience.
For instance, if you helped a small business set up a lead generation system, analyze their market, or create a rudimentary CRM to manage their sales pipeline, include it!
I’ll share a personal example. When my children were infants (and one or two in preschool), I took some time off from paid work. During that period, when asked by friends to help them get ready for job search, to write press releases, flyers, newsletter articles, etc., I said yes.
While I received plenty of thank you’s, I didn’t receive a dime. I did, however, incorporate these experiences on my resume to show that during my gap I was keeping my skills current with results to show for it.
Focus on the Positive
While it’s easy to focus on the negatives of workplace absence, review the situation with a different lens to spotlight the positive as it pertains to your future career.
For instance, let’s say you are looking to return to pharmaceutical sales after taking time off to care for an aging parent. Chances are you learned a bit about the healthcare reimbursement landscape or advocated on behalf of your loved one with physicians and RNs.
By spelling this out and focusing on the positive, you’ve identified lessons learned that apply to the role you are targeting today.
Be Mindful, Not Panicked
It’s important to be mindful of any career gaps and how you should best address them. However, career gaps in and of themselves are not deal-breakers. They should never prevent you from crafting a career narrative that focuses on your skills, talents, and successes that will make you a great new hire.
By Virginia Franco, NCRW, CPRW
Virginia Franco Resumes | www .virginiafrancoresumes.com | VAFrancoResumes@gmail.com