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Took a career break? Don't feel guilty about it

By Neha Bagaria
October 26, 2016 08:20 IST
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Here's how you can turn your sabbatical to your advantage.

In today's fast-paced competitive work environment, taking time off mid-career is not something unnatural.

Rather, it is quite common. The reasons can be far varied and many -- be it motherhood, family reasons, ill health, education, travel or pursuing a lifelong dream -- people often take sabbaticals.

However, such a break is still not very well accepted by employers.

The trick is to write a CV in such a manner that the employer looks past your break and hires you for who you are and the skill sets you possess.

To ensure a smooth transition back to work life, here are some tips on how to specifically write a resume.

1. Anticipate what you are getting into

Times are changing, and fast.

Even if you were on a break for a short period of time, the market might have undergone a sea change and the skills earlier required for your job position could have changed, too.

The best way to achieve success is to do your research about your preferred jobs and the skills required.

This would also help you familiarise yourself with market dynamics. You could also consider a bit of upskilling or training to bag that ideal job.

Once you have identified what lies ahead, you can start exploring and weighing your options.

Connect and network with people in the industry, create a profile on job sites such as LinkedIn, join a professional association.

By educating yourself, you will pick up industry jargon and fad words which you can include on your CV.

2. Accept your sabbatical

Don't hide your sabbatical. Having unclarified gaps in your CV will make the recruiter question your job application.

Address the career gap concisely and do not make it up or hide it. You don't need to get into too much detail.

Just write a short title that explains your break, for example, motherhood, international travel, family care, professional and personal development, MBA, medical reasons, etc.

It is also an important opportunity for you to showcase what you have done during your absence.

You can put down things like: attended workshops or training related to your industry, undergone training in a new technology, attended seminars, meetings or workshops related to your industry, etc.

3. Introspect and leverage

During career breaks, people often develop new skills that add to their existing skill sets.

Some also use this time to get a higher education degree. This helps.

It is very important to address the skills that you have picked up while you were on your break.

At the end of the day, a resume is primarily a sales document; therefore, highlight everything that will sell you at your best.

Whenever you get confused as to what to include in the CV, ask yourself, "Is this selling me?"

Assess the quality of your CV and only include those qualities which are selling you in a positive light.

A career break will stay with you for your entire life span. Thus, make sure you highlight all your achievements and outcomes before your break as well.

4. Keep moving ahead

If you are going for an interview after your break, prepare yourself well for questions that will be asked on your career and the break that you have taken.

Also, highlight how that particular experience will support you as you move forward.

An interview is the best instance when you can highlight how you are perfectly ready to take on new challenges.

Be frank about your break and why you are ready to return to work.

Focus on how the skills and attributes you developed during your break will make you a stand-out applicant.

Savita Kumati (name changed) took a two-year break from work to look after her dad who was diagnosed with cancer. Here's how she "sold" her gap:

There are a great many impressive ways to highlight what you learned while you were taking a sabbatical, which was also work.

It is also important to be true to your story in your cover letter.

Shalini Roy (name changed) took multiple breaks in her career to take care of her children, but wrote about it very beautifully in her cover letter.

These are different, unique, and gentle (yet hard-hitting) ways to get an employer/company to sit up and take notice of the person that the document represents.

The author Neha Bagaria is the founder of JobsForHer, an online portal that enables women to restart their careers post marriage, motherhood, elderly care, etc

Lead image used for representational purposes only. Image: GSCSNJ/Creative Commons

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Neha Bagaria