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How should I handle a 18-month gap in my employment history on my resume?

Wednesday September 19, 2012
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Question:

Dear Donna,

I am beginning a new career path. I have not worked as a nurse for 18 months because I was terminated for "insubordination" to a nursing director. It had nothing to do with patients or my nursing skills, but was of a personal nature. At first I was denied unemployment compensation, but when I told the real story to the Employment Development Department, they sent me a check. I felt like a victim in a hostile agency. By the time I was fired, I was burned out and welcomed the termination — even though I was a single mom with a mortgage and three kids. My life has improved greatly since then. I have finished my BSN with honors, built myself a house and have "rebuilt" myself, so-to-speak, from the overwork and bullying of that agency. I'm not bitter, but hope to help nurses who are burned out and mistreated. I had to say "no more!" I have a renewed passion and hope I can overcome the obstacle of being fired. How should I handle the gap in my employment history on my resume?

Rebuilt Nurse

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Rebuilt Nurse,

Congratulations on all of your accomplishments over the past two years. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, so when you say you'd like to help and empower other nurses in the future — you'll be able to draw on your own experience.

Regarding your resume, there is no need to mention anything. Just list your last job and previous jobs as you normally would. It is not uncommon for nurses to have lapses in employment due to personal and family responsibility.

Of course when asked about the past 18 months on a job application or during an interview, you will have to address it. On an application where it asks your reason for leaving the last job, I would state something like: "Terminated — not patient care related." On an interview you might say something like, "It was a situation related to interpersonal conflict with my manager. I learned a lot from the experience and I assure you nothing like that will ever happen again." Don't make any negative comments about your former supervisor. If you are pressed for further details you might say something like, "I don't think it would be professional or appropriate to reveal the specific details. Suffice it to say that I am a better person for having gone through it and was able to return to school for my degree in the
interim which is a good thing." Stay upbeat and even-toned.

Since networking is a very effective way to find a job, especially when you have obstacles to overcome, start attending nursing career fairs, nursing association meetings (even as a guest if not a member) and other professional networking venues. Be sure to contact friends, family members and former co-workers to let them know you are looking. Ask for referrals, leads, introductions and recommendations.

Read “Picking up the pieces of your career” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Pieces) for some additional tips and advice.

Best wishes,
Donna


Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.