gaps in career/mental health - job apps.: about disclosing personal info.


Wondering if anyone has any views on this

I'm applying for a part-time academic job, and the application suggests providing info. to explain gaps in career.

Sorry for the life story, but I'm not sure what info. to include to explain my lack of jobs:

I've been studying part-time for many years - mostly as a single-parent, running from house to house trying to escape a psycho ex-husband (for the first few years of my 1st degree, I was still in a violent relationship, for much of the next, I was in a domestic violence refuge with my toddler child). This often made me ill - so I've had a few periods of sick leave with depression etc. I also had a period of time caring for an elderly parent, before they died.

I worked when I could, but this was in dribs and drabs when I could find teaching - and I generally found it too much pressure to work beyond my studies (which I did obsessively, despite my part-time status)

So, I've plenty of gaps. But I worked damn hard to keeps things going as far as my studies were concerned.

Is it best to give an outline of such personal info. to explain that I'm not a shirker, but am dedicated & have the quality of sticking at a job through thick & thin etc.? Or should I just keep quiet??

I don't want the 'boss' to just bin the application because it's all a bit embarrassing, but neither do I want them to think I'm lazy, and take the easy route!

And as for disclosing mental health...

I'm only going for a PT job, as I know I can cope with this - mostly (like many others with depression, some days are better than others, and there's a chance I may need time off in the future if it comes back badly).
But as surveys show (can't recall which - but in the BBC archives somewhere?!), whatever the equlity legislation, few people want to employ those with mental health issues

What's others' take on this - should I disclose, when I'm not under any obligation to do so at this stage and when, frankly, it may prejudice my application (even though I could do the job around the 'reasonable adjustments' that employers are legally obliged to make)?

This is a minefield!


======= Date Modified 22 Sep 2010 16:23:56 =======
I'm afraid I can't offer advice from experience, but you say the application 'suggests' you provide info for gaps - so I would say it is not essential to disclose your personal and medical situation at this time.

Also can you change dates on your CV from specific dates to something like "Spring semester 1999 to Autumn 2001" and then flesh out gaps with information about memberships of societies or something? Not bending the truth, but just being a bit more vague!

Not sure whether this would help, but remember health issues ( physical or mental ) are confidential, you could offer to have a discussion with the institutions occupational health team once you get past the interview stage...just don't disclose it on the form. Give yourself a fighting chance to get your foot in the door first!

Any other opinions forumites? I hope my advice is legal and ethical...anyone else got any experience?


======= Date Modified 22 Sep 2010 17:01:30 =======
I tend to agree with Matilda: I would gloss over the gaps in the initial application stage for fear of my application being binned for exactly the reasons you state.

But really I want to take my hat off to you. You've really been through the mill, and as a single parent and carer for your elderly parent (sorry for your loss, by the way :() you have most certainly been working a damn sight harder than many people in regular paid employment. It makes me mad that the work you have been doing is undervalued (and of course unpaid).

I too have some big holes in my employment history and time off for mental ill health for similar reasons to yours. I've never disclosed the mental health stuff when applying for jobs because I strongly suspect that prejudice is alive and well, even among 'enlightened' employers. Focus on the positives in your application. You have managed to study to a high level, work as a parent and carer, AND you've had periods of paid employment in teaching. Juggling all that is a major achievement, even without taking the traumatic events you've been through into account (and even more impressive in light of those events). I would (and have!) include those caring responsiblities in the employment section of my application and that way 'gaps' are covered. Prospective employers will then be able to see what you've been doing and appreciate your hard work in continuing your studies while doing both paid and unpaid work.

Finally, the very best of luck to you: you deserve every success :-)


Oh yes Nearly...finished, I forgot to say well done for all your life achievements too. It is amazing that you just keep going through all the adversity. I take my hat off to you!


Hey! I agree with the others- I would be vague or gloss over some of the gaps if possible, without being blatently untruthful! Where it isn't possible I think it's fine to state that you had personal circumstances that meant you were committed to looking after a relative or whatever. It's hard to know what to advise with respect to the depression. I have bipolar and was given no choice but to declare my illness as it appears on my CRB check. I have been very lucky in that my department and supervisor have been extremely understanding and have not discriminated against me- in fact they have bent over backwards to be accommodating. But would I declare it on an application form if they had no other means of finding out? Probably not, unless it specifically asks. Unfortunately there are a lot of ignorant people out there- I have a contract with the NHS and have actually been discriminated against by a member of staff from the NHS on the basis of my diagnosis- so given the choice, I would probably keep quiet. Best, KB


Thanks very much for your helpful (& very kind) replies (sorry for delayed thanks - been at conference)

I think I'll 'gloss' & 'pad' - & then deal with it if I get to / after the interview (though I don't hold out much hope for this!)

Cheers, guys!