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Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: Will employers be understanding that I may have a month gap in employment due to the fact that I moved across the country for my husband’s job? My husband and I are moving in December to Wisconsin (from Texas) so he can start a new job on January 4th. I love my current job and am sad to leave it. However, from a financial standpoint, it seems to make the most sense for me to move with him in December, even though I don’t have a job currently lined up in Wisconsin.

My question is, how important is it nowadays to not have a gap in your employment history? Will employers be understanding that I may have a month gap in employment due to the fact that I moved across the country for my husband’s job? Or is it better if I stay at my current job until I have a new job locked up in Wisconsin? Do most employers accept the fact that circumstances like this can happen and won’t be turned off if I have a month or two where I’m unemployed? Would it be better if I went and got a temporary job at a retail shop until I can find something in my actual field just to avoid an employment gap?

I’ve never been fired from a job or asked to resign, and I currently have no gaps in my employment history. All my supervisors said they were sad to see me go, and I have good references lined up for when I do start interviewing.

A: I think at some point the standard advice about resume gaps started making people think that even very short gaps will be a problem, or that gaps for any reason are bad. But neither of those is the case.

The deal with employment gaps is this: When employers see large gaps between jobs, they wonder what happened: Did you leave the previous job with nothing lined up, and if so, why? Were you fired? Did you blow up one day and walk off the job in a fit of rage? Were you working somewhere that you’ve deliberately left off your resume, and if so, are you trying to hide something that would be concerning if I knew about it? Or was there a perfectly understandable reason?

If the answer is “we moved to a new state,” “I had a baby and took a year off,” “I had a family health situation that has since been resolved,” or other perfectly understandable reasons, the gap isn’t likely to be an issue. An employer will just want to hear what was behind it, and an answer like that should put it to rest.

In other words, it’s not the gap itself that’s an issue. It’s just that it raises a question of whether there could be something concerning behind it. When you can demonstrate that there isn’t, it’s a non-issue.

As for length, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever even be asked about a gap of a few months or less. In general, gaps don’t become a question for employers until they’re five or six months or longer, and they don’t become potential red flags until they’re longer than that.

And patterns matter too; if you have a solid work history and one gap of, say, eight months, it’s unlikely that anyone will care. But if you have multiple gaps, they’re probably going to take a closer look and wonder what’s up with the pattern.

Q: My office-mate stinks. I share an office with a guy who’s about 20 years my senior. Our office is a pretty good size. We’re constantly about five feet away from each other. I’ve been in this office for about two months now (just moved teams in my company and therefore buildings).

As the day goes on, he gets stinkier and stinkier, and whenever he stretches, it stinks up the whole office. I am keeping the door open. I haven’t rigorously documented how often he gets stinky–it’s definitely more than once a week, perhaps not every day, and more towards the end of the day.

At what point, if ever, could I request to change offices, or some other course of action? We’re on the same team, but we don’t work on any of the same projects. I’m certainly not perfect to share an office with, as I also occupy a human body, etc., but this is egregious.

A: I think you could ask to change offices now — you’re not required to tolerate this for some particular length of time before you’re allowed to ask not to be subjected to it. When it’s at the point that it’s clear that it’s a regular thing and not merely occasional, it’s reasonable to explain the situation and ask if you can sit somewhere else.

Do be prepared that your boss might instead choose to try to address the problem with your coworker instead of moving you, or even that you might be told to find a way to deal with it … but it’s a totally reasonable thing to speak up about.

These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some have been edited for length.

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