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How do I explain a low-paying job during a caregiving employment gap?

by Mike
(Knoxville,TN, USA)

After 20 years as a general manager, my wife was critically injured-electrocuted on high voltage wires. After therapy in a traumatic brain injury hospital, she was released with no insurance coverage for home health care.

It was as if she had a stroke and Alzheimers at the same time. She had to relearn everything from walking to talking. She also had amnesia and no short term memory. Fortunately, I had retirement savings. I also owned property that I was able to renovate and sell to tide us over. I stayed at home with her for 5 years and took over her rehabilitation and all household responsibilities.

One year ago,I took a part time very low paying job near my home, still unsure about leaving her alone. She has made a miraculous recovery. I am now anxious to resume my career as a general manager. How do I list the gap and how much detail do I put in the cover letter? How do I explain taking this low paying job? How do I handle interview questions?

My current employer didn't believe a man would do that and checked to see if I had been in jail or rehab.

ANSWER: Wow, Mike, your current employer sounds awfully cynical! I think his/her attitude probably has more to do with the staff he's used to working with than with you.

But the truth is, many people -- men included -- are taking time off these days to care for loved ones, from children to spouses to parents. So I would imagine future employers might be a bit more trusting. I suppose you could always get your wife's medical team to write you a letter though, if really necessary.

Congrats, by the way, on your wife's miraculous recovery! And kudos to the loving care you provided during her time of need.

Now, on the resume, I'd put in an entry saying something like Family Leave 2002-2009 (caring for wife who suffered catastrophic injury) and leave it at that.

In the cover letter, I wouldn't explain that further except to say that she is now fully recovered, allowing you to return to the workforce full time. You might also explain the low level job in this way: "In an effort to bring in some income and to test my wife's ability to function with me out of the house, I took an entry level job for the last year, which has been successful. I am now ready to fully recommit myself to a position in my career path." Or something along those lines...

In any interviews you get, you might be asked to explain more fully and you can choose at that time how much detail you want to give. You don't have to disclose your wife's medical details, but you will need to assure the employer that you will be a reliable and consistent employee.

Good luck!

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