Last month, I received a call from a woman. She was not being able to find a job. I asked her to share an updated CV with me and found that she hadn’t worked for the last 5 years. I called her back and asked her what she was doing in the recent years.
She got married, had a baby and had moved to a new city. These were a lot of changes to handle within a short span of time. I asked her to come and meet me. I got the opportunity to coach her that changed her approach to job search in a radically different manner. Today, she is back with a bang in the corporate world and is really happy that despite the long break, she could do it again!
Most of us would relate to this feeling of ‘not being able to find a job because of a gap in the career’, either because we have experienced it ourselves, or we have seen a near and dear one go through it. Sabbaticals are typically paid leaves granted to university teachers once every seven years so that they can travel or study further. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, sabbaticals don’t work well in the corporate world, while I am glad that it is beginning to change for good!
If you are getting married or having kids or moving your house or traveling the world, not being employed is usually termed as a ‘cardinal sin’. An unwritten commandment that you didn’t follow. Add to it the fact that your skills might be outdated in the fast-changing markets and what you is big hurdle to cross.
When you decide to get back to a job after a career break and start applying, responses are few and far between. And if you do succeed in reaching an interview, the dreaded question-
‘What were you doing for all these years?’ finds all your answers not hitting the bull’s eye. And the interviewer says, “We will get back to you.” That’s it. You have been there.. Isn’t it? You have that underlying feeling that- you might not hear from them again.
So, what should you do?
Stop looking for jobs?
Become a home-maker?
Start an entrepreneurial project?
Pretty confusing, isn’t it? But all hope is not lost. Over the years of having coached hundreds of people for their careers, I have come across many professionals who have taken a break from their careers for different reasons. While there is no one-size that can fit all, here are some tips that can help you position yourself as a formidable candidate for the next job that you apply for:
Analyze & upgrade:
Get a realistic view of your skills and their relevance in the market. Don’t expect your career to resume from where you left it years back! Be your own critique and take an authentic look at your existing skills and gauge the need to upgrade. And if yes, then update your skills before you go hunting for jobs. You see, people who are already working lack time to update themselves with the latest developments in their domain. If you certify yourself with those skills, you have a great chance in positioning yourself right, to the prospective organization.
You may ask yourself-
What can I offer today that I am really good at?
What can I do with my expertise to solve a problem?
Do I need to up skill myself for a particular role?
Do Not hide facts:
Mention the fact that you were on a career break appropriately, along with the reasons for it. Don’t make the interviewer play Sherlock with your profile. The point of it all is- what is more important is not that there was a break, but what did you do with your time, during the break. And you can do so by answering questions like-
Did I keep my learning going?
Did I help anyone solve a problem with my skills?
Did I stay in touch with the market/industry?