Strength from struggle: What a gap in my employment history taught me

Squiggly careers are a thing: things take turns, life continues and surprises come along the way. But what about when there’s a gap in employment? Guest blogging is Fiona Simpson, an Employer Relations and Development Adviser at King’s Careers, and she’s here to talk all about the positive takeaways from her time in-between jobs.

Man throwing various papers up into the air, while sitting by a laptop
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from

“Why is there a gap in your employment history?”

A question many people dread. Yet recently, as I was reflecting on the gaps in my own employment history; one 4 months and one 6 months long, I began to look at these differently.

I had my first job aged 14, working in an after-school tutoring centre, and worked continuously up to and during my university studies. All my summer breaks were spent volunteering or working any job I could find. I thought I had done everything to help launch me into a long and secure career, and yet in my first 5 years post-graduation, I seemed to find myself in two periods of unemployment. However, rather than spending this blog post trying to defend myself and convince you (or an employer) that I had genuine reasons and challenges that lead to these gaps, I am going to switch up the focus and look towards the lessons I learnt from these experiences.

1) Resilience.

It may be a buzz word we hear everywhere, but it’s one of the most powerful skills you could ever possess. Queuing for the Jobcentre every week and submitting endless job applications with little success, I was left feeling dismayed and frustrated. However most importantly, despite these testing times, I never gave up. And when things feel hard now I can look back at these periods of my life and feel proud about how I adapted and persevered.

2) Creative problem-solving.

During my second period of unemployment (after enduring a job that damaged my mental wellbeing) I decided I wanted to take a slightly different direction in my career. Yet once again I was faced with closed doors. So instead, I took this as an opportunity to get creative and try and develop my CV. I started writing a guest blog for a website, I got articles published in the local paper and I managed to secure some work experience. I asked anyone with an interesting sounding job if I could see what their work was all about, and thankfully a couple obliged. It may have felt like I had gone back to basics a few years into my career, but I am so glad I tried something different and got creative rather than complacent.

 If you’re struggling to think about ways to get active, learn and find experience, do have a look at our KEATS page “Learn how to make myself more employable”. We list lots of accessible ideas, including volunteering, virtual opportunities, internships and how to create your ow experience. 


3) Empathy.

Nowadays, working in a University Careers Service at King’s I know many of students experience the same frustrations I felt. Unanswered applications and closed doors. I know it may feel like everyone else just rockets through their career without obstacles, but this certainly is not the case. And for me personally, I am so pleased I can empathise and encourage others; things will get better and you will look back and see what you gained from persevering. As someone who is extremely passionate about helping people achieve their potential, I have learnt a big part of this is understanding that everyone is at different stages and faces a different set of challenges and that’s ok.


So, the next time I am asked why I have gaps in my employment history, I can confidently say “where there is no struggle, there is no strength” (Oprah Winfrey).