Returning to work after a break

Returning to work after a break

  • May 23, 2023
Target your cv to secure interviews and job offers

As life happens, it's not uncommon to take a break from your career for various reasons, whether raising a family, traveling the world, or caring for a loved one. But when it's time to return to work, many people face a daunting challenge: how to rewrite their CV to account for the gap in their career.

The good news is that a gap in your career can be something other than a roadblock to landing your next job. With some strategic planning and the right approach, you can create a CV highlighting your strengths and downplaying any gaps in your work history.
In this article, we'll explore some tips and tricks for rewriting your CV following a gap in your career. From addressing the gap head-on to highlighting transferable skills, we'll cover everything you need to know to get your CV back on track.

Address the Gap Head-On

One of the biggest mistakes when rewriting your CV is trying to hide or downplay the gap in your work history. However, this approach often backfires, as it can come across as dishonest or disingenuous.
Instead, address the gap head-on in your CV. You don't have to go into great detail about why you took a break from your career, but acknowledging the gap shows you're transparent and open about your work history.
For example, in your CV's summary section, include a brief statement explaining the career gap. Something like "Took a hiatus from my career to care for a family member" or "Took a sabbatical to travel the world and explore new cultures" is sufficient.

Highlight Transferable Skills

When you're returning to work after a gap in your career, you may worry that your skills are outdated or no longer relevant – this is not always the case.
Even if you haven't worked in your field for a few years, you likely have transferable skills valuable to potential employers. For example, if you took a break to raise a family, you likely have excellent time management, multitasking, and problem-solving skills.
Think about the skills you've acquired during the gap in your career and highlight them in your CV. Include them in your skills section or weave them into your work experience bullet points.

Focus on Achievements, Not Dates

When you're rewriting your CV after a gap in your career, it's easy to get bogged down in dates and timelines. However, focusing too much on when you work can distract from your accomplishments and skills.
Focus on your achievements in each role, regardless of when it was. For example, instead of saying, ‘worked as a marketing manager from 2015-2017’, consider ‘led a team of 5 marketing professionals increasing revenue by 20% through the successful launch of a targeted email marketing campaign’.
By highlighting your achievements, you're showing potential employers what you're capable of, rather than just when you worked.

Use a Functional CV Format

If you need help in making your work history flow in a chronological format, consider using a functional CV format instead.
In a functional CV, you organise your experience by skill or function rather than by date. This allows you to highlight your transferable skills and downplay any gaps in your work history.
For example, you could have sections on your functional CV for ‘Project Management’, ‘Marketing’ and ‘Leadership’ and then list your relevant experience under each section, regardless of when you worked.

Consider Freelance or Volunteer Work

If you last worked in your field a while ago, consider taking on some freelance or volunteer work to enhance your CV.
Even if the work isn't paid, it still counts as work experience and can show potential employers that you're proactive about keeping your skills up-to-date. Plus, it allows you to network, connect and open up other opportunities.
Include any freelance or volunteer work on your CV, highlighting the skills you used and the results you achieved. This can help bridge gaps in your work history and show you're committed to your career.

Get an Independent Review

Once you've rewritten your CV, it's essential to have it independently reviewed. A career counselor or CV writer can give you valuable feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of your CV and help you make any necessary changes; equally a trusted friend or colleague can spot errors or suggest improvements that you maybe haven't considered.

Tailor Your CV to Each Job

When applying for jobs, it’s crucial to tailor your CV to each position you're applying for. This means highlighting the skills and experience most relevant to the job and removing emphasis on anything that isn't.
Carefully read the job description and make a list of the skills and experience required. Then, customise your CV to show how you meet those requirements.
This increases your chances of landing an interview and shows potential employers that you're serious about the position and have taken the time to understand their needs.

Use Keywords

In addition to tailoring your CV to each job, it's important to use keywords that are relevant to your field. Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen CVs, and these systems often look for specific keywords and phrases.
To increase your chances of passing the ATS, ensure your CV includes relevant keywords. You can find these keywords in the job description, on the company's website, or by researching your industry.
Keep It Concise
When it comes to CVs, less is often more. A CV that's too long or too wordy can be overwhelming to potential employers and may even be ignored altogether.
Please stick to the essentials when writing your CV, and keep it concise and to the point. Use bullet points to highlight your achievements and skills, and avoid long paragraphs.

Use Action Verbs

Use strong action verbs in your CV to make your achievements and skills stand out. Action verbs are words that describe an action, such as ‘managed, created or developed’.
Using action verbs shows potential employers what you've done, rather than just listing your responsibilities. This can make your CV more dynamic and engaging.

Don't Oversell Yourself

While it's important to highlight your achievements and skills, it's equally important not to oversell yourself. Be honest about your experience and avoid exaggerating or lying about your accomplishments.
Remember, employers will likely check your references and verify your work history, so it's not worth risking your reputation and credibility by being dishonest.

Use White Space

Using white space effectively can make your CV more visually appealing and easier to read. White space is the page area left blank, and it helps to break up text and make important information stand out.
Use bullet points, headings, and subheadings to create white space and make your CV more visually appealing. Avoid using too many fonts or colours.

Be Honest About Gaps in Your Work History

If you've taken time off from your career, whether due to personal reasons or a job loss, it's important, to be honest about it on your CV.
Don't try to hide the gap or make excuses for it. Instead, address it head-on and explain what you were doing during that time.
You can do this in a brief statement on your CV or in your cover letter. Explain any volunteer work, freelance projects, or skills you acquired during your time off.
Being upfront about a gap in your work history shows potential employers that you're honest and transparent, which can go a long way in building trust and credibility.

Include Relevant Education and Certifications

If you've been out of the workforce for a while, you may have acquired new skills or education that are relevant to your field. Include these on your CV, even if they aren't directly related to your work experience.
Include any relevant degrees or certifications, the institution where you earned them and any relevant coursework or projects you completed.
This not only shows potential employers that you're committed to your field, but it can also help you stand out from other candidates who may have a different level of education or training.

Proofread and Edit Your CV

Before submitting your CV, it's essential to proofread and edit it carefully. Typos and grammatical errors can make you look careless and unprofessional, so take the time to review your CV thoroughly.
Read your CV out loud to catch any awkward phrasing or errors you may have missed. Ask a trusted friend or family member to review it as well, as they may be able to spot mistakes you didn't notice.
Double-check your contact information and ensure it's up-to-date and accurate.


Rewriting your CV after a gap in your career can seem daunting. Still, with the right approach, creating a compelling and effective CV that showcases your skills and experience is possible.
Start by identifying your strengths and achievements, and tailor your CV to each job you're applying for. Use keywords, action verbs, and white space to make your CV more engaging, and be honest about any gaps in your work history.
With a little effort and attention to detail, you can create a CV that helps you stand out from the competition and land your dream job.  Need a helping hand?  Get in touch with the Paragon team who will be delighted to help you with the process of crafting your knockout cv to supercharge your job search -