It is not uncommon for many women and, increasingly, also for men to take a break from their careers to focus on family. But when it comes to returning to the workforce, presenting your professional skills and experience, and explaining a career break can sometimes be challenging. However, there are strategies that can effectively present your skills and experience to a potential employer when you are ready to return to the workforce.
Be clear about the reason for your break
As with any career break, it is important to be clear about the scope and purpose of a family-based career break. A gap on your resume is best avoided, so make sure that your resume accounts for your time away. Whether you have been away for a few months, a few years or longer, just specify the period and, in general terms, what you were doing. If you can highlight some relevant skills that you have built or maintained during this period, that’s even better. Whether you list skills or not, this summary is best included briefly in your employment history so that the break is seen in the context of your broader employment experience.
Focus on the skills you have maintained or developed
Time away from a career doesn’t mean you’re not still gaining valuable skills and experience, so try to identify the skills you have maintained or developed during your career break that are relevant to the role you want. Some skills might include planning and time management in a busy household or financial skills from taking on responsibility for managing the household budget. Maybe you learnt new skills through volunteering on a school committee. Perhaps you have taken a short course to keep your skills and industry knowledge current. Think about what skills you have used or developed during your career break and how they can be transferred to your new career role.
Highlight the value you can bring
Any potential employer wants to know what value you can bring to their organisation. What else have you gained during your career break that could be relevant and valuable to your next employer? Perhaps you have grown a strong personal network. Maybe time away from your industry has given you a fresh perspective or heightened your passion. Has your career break allowed you to develop valuable knowledge or insight that is relevant to a new role? Try to think both broadly and strategically to identify your high-value strengths. Then highlight them in your resume, clearly linking their value and relevance to the role you are applying for.
Do your research
When returning from a career break, as well as updating your resume, it pays to do some research. Depending on how long you have been away and how much you have remained in touch with your industry, you may well find that things have changed. Find out what employers are looking for in the type of roles that interest you. Then tailor your resume to reflect the requirements of the job where you can. Doing this will help to show that you may have been away, but you’re up-to-date on industry expectations. You may also find it helpful to talk to past colleagues or a recruiter to get a feel for the current job market, and how best to position yourself for your next opportunity.
By taking the time to carefully prepare your resume, and to present it in a clear and compelling manner, you will be putting yourself in a great position to make a successful return from a family-based career break.