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How to Explain Career Break to the Employer - A Detailed Guide

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Published by Sreya Madanan on 22 January 2024

Learn how to navigate employment gaps effectively with our detailed guide. From understanding job breaks to strategies for explanation, we've got you covered.

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Say you finally landed your dream interview at an exciting company, feeling fully prepared to showcase your qualifications. However, as the hiring manager reviews your resume, you notice lingering focus on a 2-year gap between roles. Concern crosses their face about what happened during that period and if they are truly ready to dive back into a demanding workload.

We live in a time of immense career mobility. Professionals aren't necessarily doing only one kind of job for decades like in past generations.

Forward-focused leaders recognize that linear, unbroken career advancement represents outdated norms that rarely reflect top talent’s actual journeys today. Yet biases and assumptions about employment gaps still riddle many old-school hiring processes, putting the onus on candidates to proactively address unspoken concerns.

To calm concerns over employment breaks, job seekers should approach the discussion with transparency and guidance. Organized communication about a career pause can reassure organizations about your motivation and capabilities.

What Is a Career Break?

A Career after break , also known as a career gap or employment gap, refers to extended pauses between jobs unaccounted for by another role or structured endeavour.

Career breaks are common for reasons ranging from personal issues to professional development. As published in an ET report, India's average employee tenure across industries is only 2.5 years, indicating frequent job changes leading to gaps.

Breaks can span anywhere from several months to a few years, depending on individual situations. Regardless of the circumstances, thoughtful preparation reduces unpredictability during interviews.

Primary Causes of Career Breaks

While every person’s journey is unique, common themes drive many employment gaps, including:

  • Personal or Family Needs:
  • Health issues, caregiving responsibilities for children, spouses, or parents, and moves abroad due to relationships can prompt workplace absences. Transitioning families regularly put careers on hold temporarily.

  • Professional Development:
  • Sabbaticals, going back to school full-time, launching a start-up, passion projects and skill-building programs also lead individuals to take career breaks. For some, reskilling, retraining or exploring alternate paths fuels purposeful pauses.

  • Job Loss or Dissatisfaction:
  • Unexpected layoffs, toxic work cultures, limited advancement, insufficient compensation or lack of flexibility motivate professionals to pause for greener pastures or recuperation from burnout.

  • Extended Travel or Volunteering:
  • Many high achievers also step away from experiences abroad expanding worldviews through backpacking excursions, language immersion or volunteerism before returning to corporate roles.

Preparing career break stories tailored for interviews allows for framing breaks favourably rather than reactively. Proactive explanations mitigate assumptions and reassure employers of your readiness.

7 Ways to Explain Career Gaps to Employers

When significant gaps appear between positions on resumes, interviewers commonly probe to understand contexts and decisions prompting workplace departures. Whether separations stemmed from voluntary or involuntary scenarios, well-composed responses demonstrate self-awareness, accountability and situational comprehension.

Below are 7 research-backed techniques for navigating career break conversations confidently:

  1. Focus On Accomplishments Upfront
  2. Rather than starting interviews on the defensive about gaps, direct spotlights first towards successes on offer. Highlight transferable skills and in-demand strengths acquired from past positions, education, volunteer work or other recent endeavors showing your touchpoints with advancement are current.

    This competence-focused approach reframes gaps as springboards towards ideal new challenges suited for your talents. Studies show over 50% of employers pass on qualified candidates due to perceived out-of-touch, making showcasing updated abilities vital.

  3. Own Your Reasons
  4. Succinctly explain the rationale behind your break without oversharing or negative impressions. Whether changes involved relocation demands, family needs, layoffs or health causes, avoid blame by simply stating reasons and pivoting to enthusiasm about reentering the workplace. Remember, confident honesty always finds its way to prove one’s mettle.

    For example, “Due to a family relocation, I paused working full-time for the last two years. Although I’m just returning now, I’ve immersed myself in several university courses and freelance gigs maintaining close industry ties.” can work effectively.

  5. Emphasize Professional Development
  6. Outline any skills training, mentorships, certificate courses or knowledge building engaged in during gaps showcasing your perseverance paying dividends now for employers through cutting-edge abilities. In this age of AI, remember, no upskilling is lesser and is always value-adding to your growth.

    Quantify new competencies gained through metrics like “Over the past two years, I’ve sharpened my digital marketing techniques completing over 25 specialized courses, allowing me to raise client social media engagement by over 90% as a freelancer”.

  7. Discuss Valuable Perspectives Gained
  8. Don’t shy away from explaining how your time away provided renewed focus offering diverse viewpoints. Travel expands cultural awareness. Volunteering develops emotional intelligence and leadership talents. Health journeys build resilience and deepen priorities. Framing growth shows maturity setting you apart.

    Stepping outside traditional workplace structures allows for self-reflection on deeper career purposes previously lost under corporate pressures.

  9. Share Side Hustles / Passion Projects
  10. Even minor entrepreneurial endeavors or passion-fueled commitments point towards well-roundedness, determination and vision offering advantages to future teams you’ll join. Maybe you maintained industry connections by consulting 10 hours weekly. Or perhaps you conquered a long-held goal like marathon running.

    Such activities demonstrate valuable traits employers desire like business acumen, focus and time management abilities.

  11. Keep Return-to-Work Conversation Handy
  12. Interviewers want to hear that you’re primed for full workplace re-immersion without distraction or urgency to take another break soon.

    Prepare talking points about how supportive personal situations, promising leads post-gap adventures or other circumstances now enable 100% commitment in writing the next professional chapter. Describing conditions surrounding your return builds trust.

  13. Discuss Future Aspirations
  14. Where do you plan to pick up momentum in the years ahead? Paint a picture of reliable stability and ascent back on track towards advancement in lockstep with organizational objectives. Highlight how seminal the aligned opening is for propelling your experience and their solutions to new heights combining perfectly timed synergies.

    Strategic self-advocacy transforms gaps from liabilities to assets showcasing your well-roundedness and offering diversity of thought while conveying you’re set up for sustainable success.

Conclusion

Employment journeys rarely follow perfect linear, unbroken trajectories nowadays between position changes, layoffs and purposeful pauses. Rather than fearing how career break appear to prospective employers, embrace gaps as springboards for infusing refreshed perspectives into the workplace while showcasing the personal and professional wisdom gained in between. Remember, our Career Experts are here to guide you through any phase of career challenges.

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