Traditionally, gaps in resumes were considered horrible problems to be either avoided altogether or creatively covered up with temp jobs, volunteer work or going back to school.
These days, however, many employers are more forgiving of holes in a job hunter’s work history. Part of the reason is the current very tight labor market (which could change at any time) and part is just a cultural shift, as employers concede that the old work-work-work-die paradigm is no longer cutting it for many people. In brief, they realized they were missing out on a lot of valuable talent. Some companies now even offer lengthy unpaid sabbaticals, a perk unheard of in the Corporation Man days.
People put career breaks to use in a variety of good ways — caring for young children or aging parents, training for and road testing a new career or simply taking an extended vacation. A well-considered career break can also be a wonderful opportunity to reevaluate your life and make any necessary course corrections.
Whatever your reasons, you’ll want to go about your break in the right way.
For example, if you intend to eventually return to your old line of work, make a point to stay current with developing trends and evolving lingo. Keep up relevant skills. Don’t forget to maintain, or even expand, your network. If you have the time, consider taking on volunteer work that in some way relates to your field. This need not be complicated. If your old job was in, say, communications, you could produce your church’s newsletter or run a fundraiser for your kid’s school.
When you’re ready to return to the workforce, do so without apology. Explain what you achieved by temporarily exiting the workforce, preferably in language that signals intention and an overall plan. Describe how your time away has made you more motivated and passionate about your chosen line of work.
Finally, to get your foot in the door, you might also consider reorganizing your resume by skills rather than jobs. If the break was short, you can make it appear less obvious by removing the months from the employment dates. Each case will be different. In all cases, when you get the chance to explain, be up-front about taking a career break. Because you’re not the only one.