Career breaks have traditionally been viewed through a negative lens, anytime out of work could be seen as someone losing touch, their skills becoming outdated, and their value to a potential employer diminished.  

But is this really the case, do we stop using skills and gaining experience and knowledge when we take a career break?  Or is it rather that we have to find a way of helping people see the positive implications a career break can have?

And how do you explain a career break to a potential employer?  Read on to find the answers.

A recent LinkedIn commissioned survey reported 46% of hiring managers believed candidates with career breaks are an untapped talent pool. I can’t help wondering if the changes in opinion are due to more people taking career breaks, maybe you have yourself or you know someone who has and you have seen first-hand that a career break doesn’t mean the end of someone’s career.

Career breaks continue to impact women more; in the same global survey, LinkedIn reported 64% of women have experienced a break.  With top reasons are parental leave (22%) medical leave (17%) and mental health (14%).

While we may be apprehensive about discussing a career break, my recommendation is to bring it out into the open as it allows you to control the narrative, provide the context and share how it has positively impacted you.  Don’t wait for an interview, start with your CV and/or LinkedIn profile. 

Recruiters are taught to check for gaps in employment in fact it's quite often referred to as a potential 'red flag' - a cause for concern and something to be looked into further.  If your CV is one of many by not referencing your break there is a greater chance your CV will be placed in the reject pile as 51% of recruiters are more likely to contact a candidate who provides context about their career break.  (LinkedIn January 2022)

For the purpose of your CV add your career break into your career section with the dates and the purpose of your break.  You can also highlight how the experience helps support your application, by sharing what your learnt and the skills you developed.  The objective of a CV is to get you to an interview, it is during this interview that you can share more specifics, but don’t be afraid to add any insight into your CV which you feel is relevant to your application.

LinkedIn’s new feature makes this an easy addition to your profile.  Under the ‘Experience’ section of your profile click on the add button and you will see in addition to ‘add position’, it now also has a ‘add career break’ option.  Within this option, you have the ability to add a description in which you can share more about how this experience has benefitted you.

Career breaks can be valuable in assessing what is important to us in life and work.  They can help us gain perspective and give us the space to figure out what we really want from our next position, so when we are in a position to return to the workforce we can be more focused on finding a role that supports our needs, is aligned to our values and ultimately gives us great fulfilment. 

In my view career breaks are not wasted periods, in fact, they can be invaluable giving us a different perspective on life and gaining valuable soft skills, however, we can’t rely on a hiring manager naturally seeing this, so our role is to help them understand, to share with them how our break has benefited us and how it could make us an even stronger candidate.

So how do you explain your career break when you are talking to a potential employer? 

As part of your interview preparation, prepare a response that covers the following and practice it so that it comes naturally to you.

  1. Be clear about the exact period and the reason for your break.
  2. Share what you were able to do as a result of this break.
  3. Explain how the break has benefitted you and what you learnt:
    • Be specific about any new skills or knowledge you gained which may translate into the workplace.
    • Think about how this experience will help you in the workplace.
  4. And finish by stating how now is the right time and this is the right role for you to return to work.

By preparing a response you are able to easily weave this into the conversation when it becomes appropriate, for example during an interview if you are asked to highlight relevant career experience or about a time when you have had to demonstrate a particular skill.

A career break doesn’t have to limit your career progression; we may need to help the hiring manager understand how it has a positive contribution.

If you need help explaining your career break why not schedule yourself in for a free introductory session.

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