According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 90% of people have been unemployed at some point in their working lives. That means 90% of people have had to explain an employment gap during an interview. There are a multitude of reasons for why one might need to take a break from the 9-5 lifestyle. But one of the more difficult reasons to explain is your mental health.
“Three months ago, I decided to leave my high-stress sales job before having another one lined up. I left because the stress was leading me into a deep depression, which made it difficult for me to do my job or get through the day without feeling sad or overwhelmed about the smallest inconvenience at work or home. I took this time off to focus on school, re-evaluate my career goals, and improve my emotional state... How should I explain my reason for leaving a company before having a new job without sounding negative or raising red flags about my ‘emotional weakness?’”
An anonymous FGB’er responded: “In the past, when I've burned out a job and wanted to avoid trash talking a previous employer, what I've done is focus on the fact that I left my job because I was ready for a change and excited for new opportunities in my career. It's also ok to be somewhat honest without focusing too much on the negative (for instance, you can reference that wanted to take some time off to focus on school and some personal obligations at home, and you're now excited to return to work and immerse yourself in a new workplace culture).”
Focusing on the positive changes and progress you made by taking time off can reflect better on you than stressing the negative reasons for why you had to leave. You can focus on the positive by explaining how you spent your time off. Give specifics. Reference ways you’ve stayed up-to-date within your field, any classes or seminars you may have attended, any volunteer positions you may have held, and how you’ve prepared yourself for re-entry into the workforce.
Another FGB’er responded to advise the importance of the fact that you left rather than being forced to leave. She also gave examples of ways to describe a high-stress work environment without making it seem like you cannot handle stress.
“You can say that you decided to leave your job because the culture wasn't a great fit or the company and role weren't what you were told they would be. There are a lot of ways and options for you to frame your answer because only you know the reason you left,” she wrote.
When explaining a personal reason for an employment gap, Indeed recommends saying something along the lines of: “I was able to take some time off work to focus on myself. It was a time that prepared me to take on new challenges. I’m incredibly excited about the opportunities that lie ahead, such as this position.”
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