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Reignite your career 4: How to explain a career break

Your career break and life outside of work makes you more interesting. Use it to inspire others and yourself.

This post is part of the Noon Masterclass: Reignite Your Career by Noon’s Career Expert, Lisa Unwin

Catch up with Part 3: How to make your CV sing

Lisa Unwin portraitCareer breaks are a little bit like the war. “Don’t mention it,” professional recruitment people often advise. I think this is profoundly misguided. To skip over a career break is to collude with the myth that nothing useful happens outside of work.  

That could not be further from the truth. In an age where, assuming we start work at, say 21 or 22, we all face a working life of upwards of 40 years, who isn’t going to need a break at some point? 

It could be because of children, to go travelling, to look after elderly relatives or simply to recharge your batteries. It will happen to more and more of us.  We need to embrace career breaks as part of our story. Start with some of these thoughts, not only to impress others, but to inspire yourself.

What to say about your career break

I’m refreshed, re-energised and re-focused

Who isn’t better after a break? And when you decide to return, putting in place the childcare and support to make it work, any new employer can be sure you are 100% committed. With something to prove and fire in your belly to prove it.  

I am so much more productive

Minus a salary and the suffocating bureaucracy inherent in most large organisations, we tend to become slicker, speedier. Less time to faff. If you’ve been juggling other people’s needs with your own, carrying four timetables in your head, you are more efficient. Guaranteed.  

I’ve broadened my skills, knowledge and experience

Smash the myth that you turned off that busy brain. You still read, absorbed, thought and contributed. You knew what was happening in the world and in the world of work. You didn’t check out. Be specific about what skills you have now, give examples of how you developed them. Add what do you know now that you didn’t know before?  

I’ve grown and deepened my network

I have more references and a wider range of organisations, people and situations to call upon, ask, tell things to or reference. Institutions can make us myopic. You’ve seen more than what is in four office walls.  

I’ve witnessed different ways of getting things done

Things we can learn from. That’s healthy. Leadership styles and ways of delivering services are all around us – schools, hospitals, retail companies. You’ve been part of that world, and identified what works – and what doesn’t.  

I have new perspectives on customers and clients

You have more insight because you’ve been out there more, interacting with the world as a consumer or creator or been on the receiving end of services. You know how it feels and how it could be improved. You have acquired those elusive empathy skills.

You can trust me

I have delivered without the comfort blanket of a large organisation. I’ve dealt with my own IT, worked out the fastest ISP, I’ve navigated the complexities of new technology tools or systems. I’ve learned independently. I’ve set my own milestones and frameworks for projects or travel or to help other people.  

And finally – dare I say it – you are older. With less time to waste. Life is speeding up, as are you. Back these up with examples. What was ‘new and good’ in your break? Help an employer understand. Be brief. Be brave. Know your own value. Start to build Brand You. 

— Lisa Unwin

Lisa Unwin, a partner at Inclusivity, is Noon’s Careers Expert.

Go to Part 5: 8 ways to stand out on LinkedIn

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Reignite your career 2: Think like a chess master

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Reignite your career 3: Make your CV sing

A back-to-work CV, aka resume, highlights your experience and skills and — in my opinion — doesn’t try to hide time away from the workforce. Here is how to write it.

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Reignite your career 4: How to explain a career break

Your career break and life outside of work makes you more interesting. Use it to inspire others and yourself.

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