Business Today

Returning after a career break?

Be explicit about the reasons with your potential employers.

Saumya Bhattacharya        Print Edition: August 8, 2010

Looking for a job after a break in employment is rarely easy. While a sabbatical for study or an illness is not difficult to explain in your job hunt, lay-offs or redundancies stemming from an organisational restructuring can spell trouble if not handled properly.

Organisations in India tend to be concerned if you seek employment with them after a lay-off. "Outside India, lay-offs are a part of life. In India, this gets viewed with concern, and even a degree of social stigma is attached to it," says N.S. Rajan, Partner and a People & Organisation Leader at Ernst & Young.

A career break has a significant impact on the conversation for a new job. In such a scenario, what should you do?

First, you should look for a job, if possible, through people you know such as your peers in your former workplace or your mentors who know your professional strengths. Using your network and contacts is also an easier option because one, you can be up front about the reasons for the break, and two, your skills, strengths and competence will be known to them.

In your résumé, suggest experts, clearly state the chronology of your career, including the break, and the reasons for it. You are also likely to have acquired some skill during your time off, so focus on that. Do not dwell on past difficulties and issues. The idea is to convey your strengths.

When discussing your break with a potential employer, you should have the integrity to explicitly discuss the reasons for leaving your earlier job. But are organisations receptive to such transparency on the part of a candidate? "Though it is the tougher option, I would still recommend it as it would be the right thing to do," says Rajan, adding: "Remember, when you disclose what you need to, you will not worry about verification checks."

Lay-offs as a function of business and redundant roles in time of organisational restructuring are market-related situations. "The best way to approach a new job is to research and understand the basic requirements of an organisation and juxtapose your talent to make the right fit," says Asim Handa, Country Manager at Futurestep India, part of headhunting firm Korn/Ferry.

While looking for a job, you may want to explore your prospects with the company you worked for earlier, especially if your departure was a result of your role becoming redundant. If this option is not feasible, you could look for companies in a similar space by approaching placement or search firms.

In his book What Color is Your Parachute? Richard Nelson Bolles says: "There is no 'always right' way to hunt for a job." Bolles's prescription for a successful job hunt? "The more work, the more thinking you put into pursuing your job hunt, and doing the homework on yourself, the more successful your job hunt is likely to be."


  • Continue to network even when you are not active in the job market
  • Approach your earlier employer in case your role became redundant in a tough economy
  • Initiate a new job hunt through your contacts and networks
  • In your resume, clearly state the chronology of your career, including the break
  • Be prepared to explain the reasons for the break at the time of interview
  • Don�'t be apologetic or negative about your career break

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