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We all need a break sometimes—time to take a step back, find ourselves, rejuvenate or even time to take care of others.
You may need to take a break from your career for a variety of reasons, which can cause feelings of panic. What if it threatens your career path? What if you don’t have a job to return to, or won’t be able to find a new one?
The decision to take a career break is completely subjective and personal. But it doesn’t necessarily mean taking a step back.
Taking a break from work can improve your mental and physical state. It might even help open doors to new growth opportunities in your career.
It’s OK to take a career break
There are plenty of “conventional” reasons to take a career break.
Parents may decide to take time off to raise children or take care of ill or elderly family members. Maybe you’re dealing with your own personal illness or mental health issue and stepping back from work will offer you the time you need to get healthy and back on track.
But there are other reasons to take time off.
Maybe you want to focus on personal and/or professional development or have decided to travel, volunteer or even go back to school.
Whatever your reasons, as a recruiting specialist, I can tell you that it’s OK to take a career break, at any stage of your career. It won’t be the end of your career journey and might, in fact, help you forge ahead.
Being part of the talent acquisition industry, I admit that in the past, I have seen instances where a candidate was rejected because of employment gaps on their resume. Maybe the employer feared having to retrain that person or wondered why they left a job before finding their next opportunity.
But the workplace culture is changing, and organizations are becoming more sensitive toward candidates who have taken breaks in their careers. Hiring managers are willing to explore the possibilities if they find an individual with integrity who is honest about the reasons for their break and is willing to learn and grow.
You may be skeptical to disclose the reason behind your career break, especially if it’s a personal one. But being genuine can work in your favor. Honesty and integrity are important qualities in any organization.
The key is staying relevant and prepared for the next step on your career path.
Five ways to take a career break and still keep moving:
- Keep your skills fresh. Don’t lose track of what’s happening in your industry, especially if you’re in a more technical role. When you’re ready to return to the job market, find training to refresh your current skills and even learn new ones. Keeping your skills up-to-date will help you stay relevant in the market even after a break.
- Update your resume. Make sure your resume/CV includes your career break. It’s better to showcase it and explain than have a recruiter figure it out later. You can also add a cover letter that offers more information on your reasons for the break.
- Prepare your interview responses. Once you’re back in the game, prepare to answer questions about your break. Be honest and confident, and explain your career gap in a positive light. If possible, offer ways it can help in your future role.
- Keep networking. Stay involved with your career networks. Some companies even offer “career returner” programs, such as our Accenture Reboot Program in India.
- Be honest about a job loss. If you took a break after losing a job due to a layoff situation, there’s no reason to hide it. Most employers will understand. Explain the reason behind your job loss and highlight the skills you built in your previous stint.
Your reason for taking a break from your career is just that—your reason. Stay true to yourself and communicate the fact confidently.
As long as you are honest and confident when sharing how this time off benefited you, the break shouldn’t be a hindrance for advancing your career.
It might even work as an advantage.
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