Taking a break from work? Here's how to plan your comeback

Taking a break from work? Here's how to plan your comeback

Coming back from a career break is not easy. The best strategy would be to plan your re-entry well in advance.

We've all, at some point in our professional lives, wanted to take a break. It might have been for a change in career , a sabbatical, to support an ailing relative or to pursue a forgotten goal. Taking this decision was the easy part. The challenge is in getting back on track.

How do you explain the absence to a recruiter? Do you go back to your former employer or seek elsewhere? There is only one strategy that is right-start early, right from the time when you were contemplating a break.

Take the first step while planning your break, whether of your own volition or as a result of circumstances. The duration of the break is of consequence. If it is only a couple of months, don't worry, especially if you have a long career behind you.

Anything longer and you will be better off having planned your re-entry. Of course, if you are taking a break to pursue an education or for non-profit work, it will not be considered an absence on your resume.

Devashish Chakravarty
Next, talk to your current employers. Find out if they are willing to sanction an unpaid sabbatical. Also, look at options of staying on the rolls during the break, either as a consultant or with a modified job profile, permitting you to work part-time from home. If it does work out, you are in luck as you will have a job waiting for you on your return.

If it doesn't, speak to former bosses and professionals who value your work. Discuss your options. You may be in luck and get a job guarantee as long as you commit to a time frame and bring real value on your return. If none of these work, see if you can you enroll for a course of study or take on volunteer work so that the break can be better justified later.

Once you begin your break, it is important to set aside some mind-space for your career. Spend some time to maintain your professional network. Networking is usually the first casualty since your new routine does not place you in situations that would keep you in the loop.

Stay in touch with your professional friends to keep the relationships alive. Stay abreast of industry happenings and news related to your sector. Your knowledge will be extensively tested when you eventually get to an interview. Set up and manage an active social media profile, such as on LinkedIn, if you have not done so yet.

Add recommendations from former employers to your profile. Some of them can simply be character references. This will help recruiters research your past better when you submit your resume. If you can squeeze in a course of study, regular or distance, do it. If you have time, try helping out at a business or at a non-profit organisation.

Finally, when you think you're ready to get back to work, do a reality check. Are you willing to put in long hours? Do you need the money? Do you have the self-confidence and a support system to help you succeed? If the answers to these questions are in the negative, think it through. Make sure that the reason for you taking the break is now well and truly under control.

Once you're sure, the first step is to update your resume and circulate it within your network. Upload it on your favourite job portals, using their paid services for better traction. Send it across to recruiters you have worked with in the past. Having done that, get out of the house. Be an active job seeker. Know that the industry needs to see commitment in your attitude. Meet people from firms you seek to join. Your primary challenge would be to deal with the emotional stress.

When you meet people, project a professional image. Do not apologise for your break. Keep your explanation honest, simple and short. Focus on your skills and achievements. Meet and speak to former employers. They would have learned to work without you, but show that you bring fresh value. Your commitment to the job and your mastery over the circumstances that caused the break need to be evident.

Finally, offer to join on a no-commitment project or internship so that the recruiter feels he's taking a smaller risk. Let your work during the probation speak for you. A low-paid role or even an unpaid experience at this stage can be an excellent launch pad for your new career. Your ability to deal with rejection will be tested now.

Use these to improve your resume and your approach to interviews. Whether your job search lasts a week or a few months, keep yourself occupied with activities that are related to your search. All the best.

The writer is CEO, Quetzal Verify, an HR solutions company run by IIM-Ahmedabad alumni


Plan your comeback
Connect the dots: The reason for your break will invariably pop up in the recruiter's mind. Do not leave it unanswered. Include your break in the resume, mentioning the reason in a single line. A simple unapologetic note is enough.

Plan your comeback
Statement of objectives: Normally a statement of purpose or objectives is for a fresher's resume and not for an experienced professional. In your case, however, it is necessary to take focus off the leave of absence and on what you aim to accomplish in a new role.

Plan your comeback
Personal development: Include additional courses of study or volunteer and non-profit work completed in your resume. Any experience that led to professional development can be shown in the resume.

Plan your comeback
Chronological resume: The format of a resume can be chronological or functional. The functional resume focuses on skills and not on the timeline. However, in your case, it may appear suspicious to a recruiter. A chronological resume is recommended so that the break is addressed upfront.

Plan your comeback
New e-mail id: When you apply for a job, your resume goes into the firm's applicant tracking software. If you re-send your resume, the software tags it as a duplicate because of your e-mail id and a fresh resume will not be reviewed. So, to improve your chances, create a new id.