How to Explain Gaps in Your MBA Resume

Many MBA applicants believe that their professional past needs to have followed a perfect trajectory, with them having gone seamlessly from job to job, from promotion to promotion. The reality, however, can be quite different. Candidates sometimes get laid off and are unable to find a new job for several months. Sometimes, an illness or other personal reason forces them to take time off. The COVID-19 era certainly precipitated its share of workplace disruptions, as has recent upheaval in the tech industry.

So, if you have a gap on your MBA resume, is all hope for your future lost?

In short, no.

First, let us define what we mean by a job gap. The rule of thumb is that any lapse of more than three months between jobs should be explained in your application. This means that if your job gap is shorter than three months, you can simply note the beginning and end dates of the interval on your MBA resume and not worry about it any further.

But what should you do if your gap is four months, six months, or even a year? Even then, you have no need to panic. You will just need to explain the gap to the admissions committee in one way or another. Some schools ask specifically in their application about any career interruption of longer than three months and want you to discuss what you did during that time; others expect you to use the Optional Essay to do so. The key to minimizing any concern about the interval is showing that you used the time effectively. For example, imagine you are an admissions committee member reading the following:

“I had a job gap of six months. During that time, I slept a lot because my previous job had been busy. So I relaxed and eventually found a new position.”

This “explanation” does not convey to the admissions committee a sense of drive, initiative, or proactivity. Contrast it with the following:

“In the six months between leaving [previous company] and starting at [current company], I embraced the chance to explore areas of interest that I had not previously had time for. I committed myself to learning to play the piano, with twice-weekly lessons and two hours of practice every day. I completed XYZ course on [something relevant to career goals] to bolster my understanding and skills in that area, and I shadowed [someone working in target career area] for ten hours a week to confirm that it is the direction I want to pursue professionally and to learn about the daily life and responsibilities of individuals in that role.”

The second example represents someone who used their time off for personal, intellectual, and professional growth, and that should easily dispel any concerns the admissions committee might have about the applicant’s job gap.

If you would like a professional’s opinion on how best to address any discontinuities in your MBA resume, simply sign up for a free half-hour consultation with one of mbaMission’s expert admissions consultants!

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