Whether you’ve decided to leave for a few months, were laid off a few months ago, or are a stay-at-home mom ready to rejoin the workforce, resuming professional work after a career break can be challenging. Gaps in the professional experience sections of your resume and cover letter can be a major source of anxiety as you plan your return to work.
There’s always a fear that prospective employers and hiring managers will focus more on what’s absent from your resume than what you can offer.
IIn today’s world, parents are often unsure of how to explain their time away from the workforce for caregiving and family obligations. Here are some tips to help you embrace the power of the pause and fill gaps in your resume after a career break — to reenter the workforce with confidence.
Embrace the Pause
IIf we’ve learned anything from the past two years, it’s that anything can happen in the workforce — from being laid off to deciding to take a leave of absence to care for your loved ones (or for yourself). The good news is that, under the unique circumstances of the past two years, gaps in your work history tend to be less frowned upon than they once were.
During the pandemic, many workers like you opted to become stay-at-home parents to focus more on their families and take a break from the workforce. Other working parents were laid off or lost their jobs as casualties of economic disruption, just like countless others.
For many, this career gap turned into an opportunity to set the course for a new career path. Without the cover of global disruption in the workforce, many working parents may have hesitated to put a stable job at risk or be fearful to pursue their interests without the stability of a full-time job.
Pick Up New Skills Through Freelance Work
Pausing your career can mean taking time to prioritize your family or recharge from burnout. But it’s essential during this time to continue exercising your current skills — or even work to develop new ones.
The inclination and ability to learn new skills is a significant boon for professional growth and advancement in today’s rapidly evolving world of work. That drive to learn more — and to act on that drive — shows potential employers your dedication to ongoing skills development. This is more important in today’s economy than ever before, especially as more and more companies are making an effort to update their learning and development programs.
To keep your skills fresh during a break, consider picking up a course or two through various massive online open course (MOOC) platforms like Coursera or Udemy. Volunteer work at a local nonprofit can also help you exercise relevant skills, like project management or social media marketing — but on your terms.
Or, if you aren’t ready for a complete break from the job market but still want complete control over your workload, consider doing freelance work. Thanks to several different platforms and networking groups, there are tons of ways to find freelance work, which can be a healthy alternative to full-time work. Options range anywhere from short-term contract work, temporary freelance work for a brand or company, or a one-and-done project.
Even in a limited capacity, remaining in the job market can help future job seekers keep up with current business trends during a career break.
Depending on the reason for your pause, we know that it can be challenging to find the time to pursue freelance work. The best thing to do is create a schedule that works for your needs, and carve out some time to work on those projects.
Staying in the freelance space empowers you to fill gaps in your resume with relevant bullet points, making your return to work (when you’re ready) that much more accessible. It can also help you grow your network and develop relationships with other professionals that can serve your career progression once you return to work.
Be Authentic About Your Resume Gaps
There are countless reasons why a career-driven parent may take a break from the workforce. But no matter your reasoning for your time away from work, you don’t have to make up a story to explain your career gaps. Taking time to care for yourself or your family isn’t a reflection of your skills and has no bearing on your ability to perform at the top of your game.
Transparency is vital when it comes to explaining your gaps to prospective employers. You don’t have to be radically transparent and describe every detail to potential employers, but be honest about why they’re there.
Some companies will push back against these gaps. In those cases, the best thing to do is to keep searching for a more welcoming workplace. Potential employers that can’t see past your career pause probably aren’t the right company or culture for you. In the meantime, continue improving yourself to demonstrate the value of your skills.
The best way to prepare for employers to review your resume is to create a space that represents your time away. It can simply say “Career Break” or “Sabbatical” (if you’re returning to the same role) so that employers are aware of any gaps in your resume from the start. After a career break, being candid on your resume sets the stage for more effective conversations with employers.
The more transparent you are, the more likely you are to find an employer open to welcoming a returning professional, and who appreciates your initiative to fill resume gaps during your career pause. Embracing the power of the pause can connect you with the right employer to help you reach your full potential and move your career forward.
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