Given the events of the past two years, career breaks are more common than ever—especially for women. According to a recent LinkedIn survey, the majority of women (64%) have experienced a career break with the top reasons including parental and medical leave. It used to be that having a gap on your resumé was considered taboo. Not anymore. In fact, you can use a career break to strengthen your competencies, renew your energy and try on new career options.
Yet, while an employment break can be valuable, some people still believe a resume gap makes you a less attractive candidate to employers. In fact, the LinkedIn survey found that 60% of respondents still think there’s a stigma attached to career breaks.
It’s time to normalize and even embrace career breaks. Let’s review some key strategies to help you reenter the workforce with confidence.
Create a vision
Before jumping back into work, the first step is to create a vision for your life. What matters most to you at this stage? For example, is flexibility your number one priority or teamwork? Make a list of your top values because they will serve as a compass as you move through this process. Also, take your time and don’t rush. The more self-aware you are, the easier it will be to get clear on the next steps.
Learn from your past
This is your chance to create a bright future. Look back on past roles and identify what you liked and disliked about them. Try to identify patterns. Are you more attracted to jobs that are structured or that allow more flexibility? Do you prefer a position that is more narrow or broader in scope? Are you finally ready to be your own boss? Learn from your experience to inform the types of roles you pursue in the future.
Identify the sweet spot
Another essential strategy is to identify your strengths and what brings you joy. Then find career opportunities that fall at the intersection of what you enjoy and are good at. That’s what is called the sweet spot. Don’t waste this chance to apply your skills to a new field. Instead, embrace the opportunity to do what you love and go for it.
Explain your career break
Whether in a cover letter or interview, it’s important to consider how you explain your career break to employers. When you do so, do it with confidence. Some examples could be:
- I’ve been caring for a sick relative
- I’ve been home taking care of my young child
- I took a break to gain practical experience and skills, so I could make a career pivot
Whatever your reason for being away, try to keep the explanation honest but brief. Then refocus the conversation on your past accomplishments and work history.
Update your personal brand
Once you have a clear idea of what you’d like to do, it’s time to update your resumé and social profiles. The good news is that LinkedIn launched a new way to represent a career break in the Experience section of the LinkedIn Profile. Now you have 13 options and over half of employers say they are more likely to contact a candidate that provides context about their career break. Also, take time to reflect on your time away. Did you volunteer, learn a new skill or start a side hustle? Remember to document any noteworthy accomplishments and add those to your resumé and LinkedIn profile.
Prepare in advance
Research each company you apply to and confirm that its vision and values align with yours. Also, try to get a sense of the company culture by talking to employees and leveraging sites like Glassdoor. Then practice for the interview. Even if you don’t have one scheduled, you can do a mock interview with a friend, mentor or coach. The more you invest in preparing upfront, the more confident you will be when meeting with the hiring manager.
Whether you’ve been out of the workplace for months or years, the thought of restarting your career can be daunting. But if you plan carefully and maintain a positive mindset, it could lead to opportunities that you never even dreamed of.