There are many different situations where a professional may take a career break such as parenthood, eldercare, or the opportunity to travel. Regardless of the reason, it can be challenging to find job after a career break. In this blog series, we share some of our best advice for re-entering the workforce. Our previous blog post was about finding a job and the focus of this post is on how to position yourself in the job market.
Why Do You Need to Think about Positioning Yourself?
Bias is everywhere and can be especially prevalent for hiring managers. It can be problematic when they let their opinions and stereotypes influence their hiring decisions. Sometimes the bias is overt, “I never hire women under 30 years old because they’re always off having babies.” (Note that this is wrong. We know that, but also feel we wouldn’t be doing the topic justice if we didn’t acknowledge that there are some employers and hiring managers out there who believe that, regardless of law and corporate policy.) Sometimes the bias is more subtle such as a hiring manager worrying that someone’s computer skills are out of date because they haven’t been employed for several years.
Biases about Professionals with Career Breaks on their Resume
What are the things that a hiring manager could think when they see a resume with a career break on it?
- The job seeker will not be committed to the job.
- The job seeker may find it too tough to return to the workforce and there is a risk that s/he may quit.
- The job seeker may be out of touch with technology.
- The job seeker won’t be able to do the job anymore.
With the knowledge that these biases exist, a job seeker can make some adjustments to his/her job application, cover letter, and/or resume. A job seeker can also consider them when preparing for a job interview.
A job application should be the best representation of a candidate’s skills and tailored to a specific role. A candidate with a career break may want to highlight actions that he or she took that address some of the concerns that a hiring manager has:
- How did the candidate stay connected with their profession and industry while on the career break?
- What courses or training did the candidate take recently?
- What meaningful volunteer work was the candidate involved in?
A job candidate can expect questions about his / her break during a job interview and should rehearse what to say ahead of time. The answer must be factual and succinct. It does not need to include excessive emotion or too much personal information. For example, “I was in the fortunate position to take a break from work and spend time with an ill family member” rather than a long-winded story about a family member’s health journey.
See our series How to Ace the Interview for more generic interviewing tips.
The first step for returning to work after a career break is to start identifying potential jobs as described in a previous post. Next, professionals should consider how they are positioned in the job market for resume short-listing and job interviews. Finally, professionals should do the research to help them negotiate the role of their dreams, which will be the topic of a future post.