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Career Advice: Explaining a gap in your résumé

By Manish Shah
April 12, 2010 10:12 AM ET
Manish Shah
Manish Shah of SymphonyIRI Group

Computerworld - Manish Shah

Title: Senior vice president for information technology

Organization: SymphonyIRI Group

Shah is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader, answering questions about résumé gaps, educational needs and moving out of consultancy. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to and watch for this column each month.

I had to leave my job as a network administrator for health reasons. I'm fine now but I am having a hard time getting back into the workforce. What should I tell prospective employers about that two-year gap? It feels like a private matter to me. Every industry has an ever-changing landscape, and with the advancement of technology, it is beginning to be a challenge for people to have a work-life balance. Reflecting on oneself is an important aspect of career development, and it's absolutely justifiable to take time off to rejuvenate -- whether it's for health, family or any other reason.

My perspective on managing your career after a professional hiatus is that the most appropriate way to address the interviewer is to be as forthright and honest as possible without disclosing your personal circumstances. This assures both a personal and a professional connection. In this day and age, I think it's absolutely fine to have gaps in your résumé. From my perspective, it's not as negative as it used to be, as long as you convey strongly how your personal experiences make you the best possible candidate for the position. It's always advantageous to be optimistic, so use the gap to your advantage.

I've been working at a midsize corporation for 12 years, working my way up, taking training at every opportunity, and learning from those around me as much as possible. I'm now a senior manager reporting directly to the CIO, who is rumored to be planning to retire in the next year. I feel that I have a lot of good ideas to bring to the position and that I really understand our business and its needs. But I've heard scuttlebutt that I can forget it because I only have a bachelor's degree in computer science. Is a master's the next step for me if the scuttlebutt is right? If you've been managing your career correctly, there's absolutely nothing holding you back from potentially obtaining that CIO position. You've focused on your personal career development to get to where you are now, ensuring that you're able to move up every step of the way. What's stopping you now? Hopefully, you've been creating a track record of success for yourself and have engaged in mutual dialogue with your seniors so that you're not at a point where you're unsure as to where you stand in regard to the natural progression of your career.

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