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How to frame a career break on your CV

Career breaks are becoming more widely accepted and employers are beginning to see the perks of these often life-defining moments. But returning to work after a break has its challenges. In particular, it can be tricky to know how to frame a career break on your CV and talk about it at interview. At Adzuna, we have taken a look at how to turn your career break into a career make-ing move. 

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

 

What is a career break?

A career break is essentially a period of time taken away from employment. There may be several reasons for individuals taking career breaks, including career transitions, gap years, or health and wellbeing. 

Typically, employees have avoided career breaks, where possible, with employers reviewing them unfavourably. A study from LinkedIn showed that a large 20% of hiring managers would reject a candidate solely based on the fact that they took a career break. Thankfully, this attitude is beginning to change and the conversation about career breaks is becoming more open. 

 

Common reasons behind a career break

Bereavement

Losing a family member, friend, carer, or anyone else is traumatic. For many, work simply isn’t a priority following a loss, meaning that they take a career break. Of course, it is one that no one wants to take, however, prioritising your mental health in this instance is the most important thing.

 

Career transition

Some individuals wish to take a career break in between roles or when changing career paths. During this time, people can reflect on their passions and strengths. 

💡 Read more: Career U-turn: Retraining and career change

 

Caregiving

Another reason for a career break is caregiving. Employees frequently take time out of work to care for family members and friends. During this type of career break, skills such as compassion, teamwork, and organisation are developed.

 

Full-time parenting

Being a parent can be tough as people take on multiple roles and responsibilities by having children. Parents become chefs, hairdressers, and taxi drivers to name a few. But, what skills do parents develop for their CVs during career breaks? The ability to multitask, work under pressure, and time management are some of the many skills gained by being a parent.

 

Gap year/travel

Typically gap years are seen to be something taken before or after university, however, some working adults are choosing to take them too. Many people choose to go travelling during this time. From gap years, individuals can develop the ability to work independently and as part of a team, as well as planning and communication skills. As well as this, gap years can be the perfect opportunity to learn a language. Some people may even write or film a travel blog, which can help to create a writing or video portfolio. This will really help them to stand out in job applications.

 

Layoff/position eliminated

Sometimes career breaks aren’t chosen by the employee, for example, layoffs and position eliminations. However, they can be a good time to grow. Individuals become adaptable, motivated, and develop a good goal-setting ability. Some people also use this time to complete online courses or develop skills through volunteering.

💡 Read more: Redundancy Support Guide – What you need to know if you’ve lost your job

 

Health and wellbeing

Employers and employees are placing more emphasis on mental and physical wellbeing, meaning that it is increasingly acceptable to take career breaks for this reason. This type of career break can develop an individual’s emotional intelligence, communication skills, and resilience.

 

Personal goal pursuit/professional development

Individuals may take a career break to pursue a personal goal, whether work-related or not. But how can this develop your career? Well, people who choose to pursue their personal goals develop time management, resilience, and creativity. 

 

Relocation

People may consider taking a career break to settle in their new home when moving to a new place. People who relocate are adaptable, as well as develop good organisational and time management skills. 

 

Retirement

Retirement is another type of career break. During retirement, people develop skills through voluntary work and taking up hobbies. Some skills developed during retirement include flexibility and creativity. 

 

Voluntary work

Some people take a break from their careers to complete some voluntary work. Through doing this, they may develop skills such as the ability to multitask and empathy.

 

What are the risks of a career break?

It’s definitely worth noting that there are some risks associated with taking a career break. The main concern for many is falling behind on the latest advances and research in the field, which could cause some difficulties with progression in the field. Some people feel that a career break will also cause them to lose touch with colleagues and their wider network. There is also a risk associated with the loss of income during a break, which can be financially damaging for many. 

 

Returning to work after a career break?

If you feel up to it or have the time, don’t be afraid to find some courses that may interest you or help your career path. Depending on your interests, websites such as Google, City & Islington College, and EDX offer free courses in a huge variety of fields. Courses like these look great on your CV and give you something extra to speak about in future interviews. 

Some companies offer returner programmes, which could be a great option if you have taken an extended period of time away from work. Lloyds banks, Thameslink, and BT are just some of the many companies offering these types of ‘returnship’ programmes.  

It may seem obvious but simply reading around your career or listening to relevant podcasts could help boost your knowledge as well as ensure that you are kept informed about the latest trends in the field. In an interview, something as simple as speaking about relevant books that you have read during your career break can ensure that you communicate your engagement and enthusiasm for the field. Despite taking time away from the field, reading relevant books and keeping updated can really communicate your interests. 

 

Should I mention my career break on my CV?

The short answer is yes, you should definitely mention your career break on your CV. You should also be honest about the reasoning for your career break. A good way to do this is to explain the decision but also put a positive spin on it. Write about the skills you learned or the knowledge you acquired. This will impress the interviewer and will ensure that no surprises arise when they ask for references from your employer. 

 

Tips for employers

With career breaks becoming less of a taboo topic, employers will see more employees asking for them. But what can you do if you are an employer? Well, ensure that you listen to the reason behind someone’s desire to take a career break. Do not take anything personally, and instead listen to their thoughts, concerns, and problems, whether they are work-related or not. Ensure that you support employees. 

There are several steps that you can take as an employer. You could offer an employee a period of time off after which they will return. Alternatively, you could offer flexible working instead, which may be suitable for someone with caring needs. If your employee is looking to take a career break for professional development, why not offer them some retraining at work? Remember that the Great Resignation is leading more employees to move roles. This means that if employees do not feel well supported, including during a career break, you may lose some talent in the long run. By offering sabbaticals, you will most likely find that you will improve employee retention.

Have you seen some career breaks on the CVs of potential future employees? It is important to not see this as a red flag. Rather than dismissing them, try and get underneath their motivations and learnings. Try and focus on the amazing skills and experiences these candidates may have picked up during their career break.

 

Career breaks can really develop the skills of individuals, whilst also protecting their mental and physical health. They also give employees time to achieve their own goals and passions. Hopefully, by changing the perceptions of career breaks to focus on the skills gained, the taboo surrounding career breaks will be removed. 

💡 Read more: How to use stay interviews to retain staff


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