How to Job Hunt After a Career Break
There are loads of reasons why you might have a career break or employment gap on your CV: maybe you started a job but hated it, and would rather erase it from your memory; maybe, like so many others, you were made redundant.
Firstly, you don’t need to lie about a career break, so don’t start messing around with the end date of your last job – it won’t do you any favours. Let’s examine how we can get you job hunting positively after that CV gap.
Rework your CV
A gap in your CV can be easily explained without any drama. Be matter-of- fact: were you caring for relatives, dealing with personal illness, trying to write a novel, or just travelling? If your break seems unremarkable, or isn’t something you’re comfortable discussing just yet, just enter the relevant dates, and sum it up in a sentence. For example, ‘June 2016 – April 2017: Maternity leave’. It’s pretty obvious what you were up to without going into detail, though you could bring up a useful example in a job interview.
The same goes for a gap year that wasn’t job-related – no explanation needed. However, to draw on a really useful career break experience, add a few bullet points explaining the skills you built along the way, such as being promoted to manager level whilst doing part-time bar work abroad.
Focus on your goals
Now your CV is nearly ready, it’s time to focus. Are you returning to the same industry, or do you want to try something new? If you’re starting from the ground up, or trying to emphasise transferable skills because you don’t have much experience in your new sector, be prepared to put in some extra effort, like volunteering, work shadowing or interning. See if there are any mentoring networks in your area, and read some inspirational case studies of career changes.
Should your plan involve returning to the same industry as before, you’re in luck: you have previous experience to draw on. It’s time to decide whether you want the same level of responsibility you had before, or whether you’re eyeing up a senior level job. You might want to pick up where you left off, then apply for a promotion after at least six months’ work, so you can demonstrate your increased responsibilities and skills.
Do some industry research
If you’ve had a long break from a competitive or fast-paced industry, such as teaching or media, you might need a refresher course, an assessment or a one day workshop to show you’re up to date. Yes, you knew your stuff five years ago, but the world has changed. Talk to people who still work in this area, either through your own network or online, and get advice.
You could find your industry is actively trying to recruit people who’ve taken time out from their career. For example, the Financial Times reported at one point that Vodafone was recruiting women who had taken career breaks. Their plan was to employ 1,000 women in both customer facing and behind-the- scenes roles. Of course, it’s not just women who need to take a break, but employment drives such as this will reassure everyone that they shouldn’t feel shut out by potential employers.
Practice your interview technique
It’s understandable to feel a bit rusty when you haven’t had any job interviews for a long time, but be kind to yourself. Dig out relevant examples of the skills you need for the job, like the time you stepped in at the last minute to help your boss with an important presentation. Remember you’re still the person who achieved all the things listed on your CV, just with a little time out.
You’re also less vulnerable to the modern epidemic of workplace burnout, where your health and morale is at an all-time low due to work-related stress felt day and night (especially if your boss ‘urgently’ calls or emails at 2am on a regular basis). Men’s Health recently reported on the rising dangers of workplace burnout, but you won’t be at risk: you’re arriving fresh and energised, with no mental hangover from your last job.
So, you’re keen to work, ready for a challenge, and excited about the future – clearly, you’ll be a great candidate. Happy job hunting!
Need more help preparing for interviews? Take a look at our expert advice here.
Polly writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency that helps candidates find their perfect internship and lists the latest graduate jobs. It also offers in-depth careers advice for all industries.