- It’s normal to decide to take some time away from work.
- However, when you want to return, the gap in your resume can cause stress.
- Insider spoke to experts about how to make this return to work easier.
There are many reasons why you might consider taking a break from your career. Raising children, health issues, personal development, or maybe a long awaited sabbatical — these are just some of the reasons you may decide to do so.
Once this break is over and it’s time to return to work, it can be difficult.
“And not only because of the difficulty of adapting to the rhythm, schedule or routine of work again, but also because of finding a new job,” Nilton Navarro Brand Manager at InfoJobs told Insider.
Companies tend not to look favorably on gaps in a resume, much less so when these cover lengthy periods.
Employers are mainly concerned with candidates being out of touch with the latest technologies and systems, Carol Fishman Cohen explained in her TED talk on successfully getting back to work after a career break.
When you want to return to the labor market after a break, the first thing you’re going to find is a new world, Laura Cespedosa told Insider — Cespedosa is a consultant and coach for SMEs and professionals in the field of digital transformation.
Added to this is the insecurity that most professionals tend to experience when it comes to returning to their careers, especially if they’ve been away from their sector for a long time.
Therefore, getting your career back on track after a break depends to a large extent on tackling these problems.
However, it’s never too late to come back if you know how to manage it. Here are some keys to be able to start this new working stage in the best possible way, according to the experts.
1. Starting as a freelancer or in a lower position can make it easier to find a role
You need to be clear about what position you want and what kind of work you want to do.
In Navarro’s opinion, it’s important to do this “to be clear about whether you want to keep the same position or whether you’re prepared to try new roles.”
If you weren’t completely satisfied with your previous role, it might be a good opportunity to change your sector or role.
Another important factor is to be aware of whether you’re willing to accept a lower-ranking position after the absence, or whether you would like to return to the same level or higher.
“You don’t go backwards in rank,” Tania Camon told Insider. Camon is a coach and employment consultant specializing in work-life balance.
However, she also caveated this, saying: “If there’s an economic need, grab what there is, and from there take the leap; the main thing is to re-enter the job market.”
It may even be a good time to start working as a freelancer.
“To simply become active again and look for jobs that will help you to get your career back on track,” advised Camon.
2. Research the companies and the sector you’re interested in and update your skills if you’re somewhat out of touch
After a hiatus of months or years, hopefully things have changed a bit. That’s why Navarro recommended researching the industry and the companies. Doing so will allow you to gain an understanding of the current practices and technology in the industry and see if you meet the requirements.
You can get this information from their websites and job offers. But there are other useful resources you can tap into that you should know.
Attending industry events, like conferences, lectures, congresses, or webinars can be a perfect opportunity to discover new trends in the market. It’s also important to update any outdated skills.
In addition, “it’s essential to meet other professionals in the industry, expanding your network of contacts,” said Navarro.
3. Value your experience and learn how to manage insecurity
It’s necessary to “know how to manage insecurity and know how to manage rejection,” said Camon.
The best way to do this is to make the most of your accumulated experience. Therefore, concentrate on being clear about the knowledge, skills, qualities, and tools that define you as a professional. Once you’re clear about them, you can outline them in your resume and in interviews.
And remind yourself that “if you were able to reach that level in your career before on your own merit, you’ll be able to do it again,” said Navarro.
4. How to present the break in your resume — update the information and don’t focus on the chronology
Updating your CV is essential in any job search, but even more so when you want to resume your activity after a break.
Check that the information includes the latest positions, training, skills, courses, and anything else. Then, you can also review its layout, to make it more visually appealing and creative.
“Often, marketing yourself starts by making a unique resume, one that differentiates you from the rest of the people,” said Camon.
If you’re concerned about the blank space on your resume, you know that you can alter the format of it to avoid this, Cespedosa said.
“You can format a resume by area, by responsibility, by competencies, and you can omit the dates of the jobs. The important thing is that you highlight what will lead me to decide to contact you to get to find out more about you,” she said.
As for the cover letter, according to Cespedosa, it should include extra information to that of the resume, explaining “why your chosen career interested you.”
The trick is to explain how you could add value to a company, rather than following the standard template of stating why you want to work for them.
5. How to tackle an interview after a career gap — explain the break if you want to, but put it in a positive light
Experience shows that explaining the reason for a career break can help in the job interview.
Both Cespedosa and Camon agree that if recruiters are focused on finding out as much as possible about the break, then it might not be the kind of place you want to work.
“Think about the values behind those personal questions that are unnecessary today,” Cespedosa stressed.
The best thing to do is approach it directly, openly, and consciously. And above all from a positive perspective.
“Language creates reality and the way you explain things is really important,” Camon said. “In the end we go in with fear and with the prejudice that it’s negative to have taken a break”.
However, “where you have to put all your focus, what you have to value is all the positive things you’ve learned during that time, the new things you’ve done and, of course, the experience,” she added.
6. Expand your network of contacts and look for work “proactively”
It’s time to use all your social networks for more than just gossiping about what others are doing. Few things help you find a job as well as networking, so don’t be shy about indicating that you’re looking for one.
“Taking care of, maintaining, and taking advantage of the previous professional relationships we have will always present us with new opportunities in the working world,” said Navarro. “For example, you can write to former colleagues asking questions, or write to professionals you know to get useful, first-hand information about changes in the sector you’re interested in.”
Another key thing is being proactive about your job search. You need to go further than looking on job portals.
“That’s not it. Things happen if we make them happen,” Camon said, “so don’t hesitate to proactively go knocking on doors that interest you.”