While the pandemic has exacerbated the conversation, résumé gaps and the taboo that accompanies them are nothing new. For far too long, there’s been a stigma surrounding career breaks, despite the myriad of reasons to pursue one—including, but not limited to things like, starting a family, focusing on health and well-being, and chasing passions.
It’s time we break the stigma and embrace career breaks for what they are: important parts of your career journey and what makes you unique as a professional.
The data is clear: 64% of people globally say they want more ways to positively represent their career breaks. And for hirers, the conversation is building as well: 44% of hiring managers want to know the reason a candidate took a career break.
Still, it can be intimidating to publicly share your career break story while trying to navigate a return to the workforce. If you’re ready for a new opportunity, here are three ways to leverage your career break as an advantage in your job search.
Highlight your career break on your LinkedIn Profile
Career breaks are not shameful, nor should they be hidden from your professional story. In fact, 51% of hiring managers say they’re more likely to contact an applicant that provided context into their career break.
Tackle the job search head-on with transparency, honesty, and authenticity. You can now add a career break to the Experience section of your LinkedIn Profile, with various options to reflect the type of break you took like caregiving, career transition, health and well-being, and more. Share new experiences during your time away from work and highlight skills you gained—be sure to look for ways to tie them to roles you’re interested in as a way to stand out to recruiters.
For inspiration, check out this post from LinkedIn member Sydney Williams who, upon returning from maternity leave and career break, rewrote her résumé highlighting all the skills she gained from motherhood like the ability to adapt, leading with empathy, and the value of collaboration.
Be bold and intentional with how impactful your career break was and continues to be.
Share your experience and learnings in job interviews
It may be difficult to exude confidence when coming back from a career break. But 52% of hiring managers believe candidates should proactively bring up their career break during the interview and highlight what they learned during that time.
When tackling interviews, focus less on your time away from the workforce and more on how this time away has helped you grow, learn valuable skills, or helped you discover a new passion. Take some time practicing how you’ll discuss this with recruiters. A good place to start is connecting the dots between what you did during your career break and what you can bring to a particular role as a result. Perhaps you took a career break to help with your child’s homeschooling during the pandemic, and that experience has helped you realize a passion for teaching or community volunteering.
Almost 70% of people say taking a career break helped them gain perspective and figure out what they really want from life. Don’t shy away from telling your story and the unique value your experience can bring at work.
Network and connect with others who can help
If you’ve ever taken a career break, you’re not alone: 62% of people have taken a career break at one point or another, so don’t be afraid to reach out to your professional community for help and advice.
Be explicit about your goals by turning on the Open-to Work feature on your LinkedIn Profile, which lets the LinkedIn community know you’re open to new opportunities through a Profile photo frame. Turning on Open-to Work on your Profile increases your likelihood of getting a recruiter message by 2X. If you’re comfortable, share your experience with your network like Sydney Williams did. Or ask for advice with a post on LinkedIn, which can kick-start a conversation in the comments section. You never know: sharing your story can inspire others to do the same and bring much-needed attention to this important topic.
Fifty-one percent of hirers believe people who take career breaks can restart their careers at any time. Jumping back from time away from work is more than possible. It’s a reality for many who are ready to take a new step forward in their paths to success. And that now includes you.
Camilla Han-He is the senior product manager for Profile at LinkedIn.