Once a taboo topic, gaps in employment history due to full-time caring responsibilities, redundancy, or a career change could cause anxiety and stress for job hunters.
We were left pondering – how would an organisation judge my time without employment? Do I draw attention to it in my CV, or do I try to sweep it under the carpet? Does it make me less desirable than other candidates?
But the employment landscape we find ourselves in 2023 compared to 2019 has shifted massively. And career breaks are now met with curiosity rather than negative assumptions about someone’s ability or performance.
So I thought it would be helpful to explore the reasons behind career gaps and explain how to show yours off to its full advantage.
The rise in career breaks
The global pandemic affected vast sections of our economy, causing extended periods of furlough and mandatory redundancies.
Home working and flexible working arrangements saw many assess their workplaces and careers, choosing alternative paths to explore, such as freelancing or consultancy-type work.
Some sought a drastic change during unprecedented times, opting to press the pause button on their careers to take time out to retrain, pursue hobbies, or, once allowed, travel.
Many felt the pandemic was an ideal opportunity to take the plunge and finally set up the business they’d been dreaming of for years!
Whatever the reason, periods of time spent out of work or between roles are becoming more and more common.
In March 2022, LinkedIn noticed this increasing trend and created a feature to tackle it head-on and break the taboo. Users can spotlight a career break in the ‘Experience’ section and choose reasons from a handy drop-down menu.
How to successfully address YOUR career break
1. Spotlight it!
Instead of cowering from it, embrace your career break and highlight how it has benefited you. YOU have the power to control the narrative, so grab the opportunity with both hands!
Explain the positives it has brought to your career if it was intentional. Detail the hard and soft skills you developed during this time. Talk about your experiences and how they’ve positively affected your outlook on life and career.
It’s helpful to list ALL the reasons for your career break, as sometimes there’s more than one. For example, you may have taken time out to spend with a young child and retrain, or work on a small business venture.
If it was a forced career break, tell an employer what it taught you and how you worked hard to get your life back on track. This is a fantastic opportunity to draw attention to your problem-solving skills, determination, resilience, and flexibility.
And don’t forget to include any accomplishments during this time!
Done well, a career break can tell a hiring manager a LOT about your character, values, passions, and personality.
2. Give it a catchy title
Treat your career break like any other role you’ve had and include it in the work history/work experience section of your CV.
Unless you were fortunate to travel for an extended period of time, chances are your career break was a hefty commitment and, well… work!
So, give it the recognition and title it deserves.
Here are a few examples, including a few creative ones!
- Volunteer x, y, z
- Full-time carer
- Professional development
- Wellness sabbatical
- Professionally active career break (a.k.a redundancy!) Talk about the steps you took to remain in the game, such as attending seminars or researching emerging industries.
If you volunteered or studied, remember to include the name of the organisation or educational establishment.
3. Don’t overdo it!
Even though attitudes to career breaks may have changed in the last few years, you don’t need to go overboard and draw attention to it multiple times!
Space is precious on any CV, so use it wisely to detail your experience, skills and accomplishments to land your dream role.
Only include recent career breaks. Employers are interested in what’s happened in the last 8 to 10 years.
If you can send a covering letter, you can dedicate a few more sentences to proudly show off your career break.
If you can’t send a covering letter, an additional sentence on your CV summary, such as ‘highly motivated Sales Manager excited to rejoin the workforce following a period of professional development…’ will suffice.
Want to find out more about how to create a CV that stands out from the crowd?
If you have any more questions about compiling a CV, then why not read my blog on 7 common CV questions answered.
And if you need further support in writing a captivating CV, contact me to book a free, no-obligation 30-minute phone consultation.