How To Explain A Career Break

How To Explain A Career Break
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There are times in our lives when we need to leave the workforce. And while the reasons for taking a work break might be personally important, they can often be hard to explain to prospective employers when you choose to return to the workforce. What can you do to ease your re-entry to the workforce after a break?

Research from recruitment company Hays, from a survey of over 1000 people, found that almost two-thirds of women and half of men have taken a career break at least once during their working life. But most of them say it was a challenge to re-enter the workforce afterwards. For women, the primary reason for their break was to have children (41%). This was followed by travel (14%). For men, it was to travel (25%) or to study or retrain (21%).

While all those reasons are valid, employers are still, it seems, put off by gaps in peoples’ curriculum vitae.

Following their career break, both men and women encountered some challenges re-entering the workforce with questions about the relevancy of their skills following time out of the workforce a major stumbling block.

Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand said “Employers prefer people with recent experience. Many prefer people with continuity in their work history and view anyone who has been out of the workforce, whether that’s for 12 months or five years, as out-of-date”.

So, what can you do about this? Hays recommends:

  • Show that you have kept your skills and knowledge up to date while on your break
  • List seminars and events you attended on your CV and online profile
  • Highlight the new knowledge you’ve acquired in a ‘professional profile’ at the top of your CV
  • Post about courses you completed or learning events you attended on your professional social media
  • Write about how your learning has shaped your thinking or approach to your role

While you might have been away from the workforce, that doesn’t mean your professional development hasn’t continued. Make that message clear. I’d also advocate working things into interviews that highlight informal learning. For example, listen to podcasts in your professional area and work that into the conversation.

You can read more about some of the challenges around inclusion and diversity in the Hays Australia & New Zealand Diversity & Inclusion Report 2018/19


  • What if you haven’t continued to develop your skills during your break? I imagine this might be the case for a lot of people who feel that a break should actually be a break (i.e. no work, and learning is work!), or people who have done it to care for their new child.

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