WORK

Career Gaps: Research on Real Life Described on LinkedIn.

This article is based on a talk I gave at the ACT-W (Advancing the Careers of Technical Women) conference in Seattle on September 15 2018.

Perceived career “gaps” can be a hiring obstacle for women and other underrepresented minorities in the tech sector. Maybe we came to tech later in our lives, took time to care for our families, were incarcerated, or left a discriminatory work environment. Our gaps tell the stories of who we are and who we have become, and the diverse experiences the tech sector desperately needs. And yet, on LinkedIn, these gaps can be glaring interruptions in the traditional idea of a tech career trajectory. In this workshop, we will look at our LinkedIn data differently by using games, creative data visualization, and other interactive activities to empower each other through the stories of our shared gaps. Participants will leave the workshop with creative strategies for explaining career gaps in the hiring process.

What are the social norms for explaining a career gap? Evidence from preliminary research on LinkedIn shows that the ways in which people publicly display their time away from a formal workplace setting vary wildly. Overall the patterns indicate that time off from work was primarily due to either caregiving responsibilities or personal growth.

Career gap evidence

I created a spreadsheet with as many terms as I could think of that involve time away from the workforce. For example, some of these terms were “stay-at-home” “stay-at-home-mom” or “stay-at-home-dad”. In addition to caregiving, I tried to think of other terms for career gaps, for example “sabbatical”, “travel”, or “unemployed”.

I like this description, it is unapologetic about caregiving time away from typical work. It clearly didn’t put a dent in the candidate’s career even though the time away was substantial.

someone as a stay-at-home-dad


This person had their caregiving time listed as an uneventful marker on their timeline.

successful transition


The above Stay-at-Home-Mom example differs greatly with this more thorough and positive caregiving description.

long-term successful transition


This is an example of a non-caregiving career gap, one to fulfill and explore via travel. The person appears to have had no trouble jumping right back into their career.

long-term successful transition


Another example of simply taking time off to travel. There were no apparent consequences to the time off.

long-term successful transition