If you’ve ever been out of work or between jobs for an extended period of time, you may have been worried about how this looks to future employers. How can you explain your absence from the labor market, and should you even have to?
LinkedIn, the social networking platform for professionals, solved this problem by allowing job seekers to add a career break section to their profile.
What is a career break?
A career break is time spent away from paid employment, typically lasting longer than a month and up to several years. It’s slightly different from a sabbatical, when an employer agrees that you take unpaid leave before returning to work in the future.
Instead, a career break means you’re terminating your contract with your employer to allow you to pursue interests outside of work. You will then return to the job market when you are ready, but usually finding a perfect career with another employer.
A career break can be taken by choice, for example if you decide to travel or take care of your family. Alternatively, you could find yourself on a career break after losing your job. Even if it wasn’t your choice, the transferable skills and experiences gained outside of paid employment can be valuable to future employers.
Why do people take career breaks?
Although anyone can take career breaks at any stage of their career path, they are mostly used by women. And there has recently been an increase in the number of female employees leaving the workforce.
Jess Huang, partner at McKinsey & Company, explains that women have struggled with a lack of childcare since 2020. According to her, “1 in 3 women do five hours of extra household chores every day” and therefore choose to prioritize home life rather than their careers.
According to a LinkedIn blog post, which reveals that 64% of women take a break at some point in their career. 22% of them are for parental leave, 17% for medical leave and 14% for mental health reasons. And it also takes longer to re-enter the workforce after a career break, with 39% of American women extending their career break.
Should career breaks be reported?
One of the hardest decisions for anyone who has taken a career break is how to frame them when trying to attract recruiters. Should you be honest and acknowledge that you haven’t worked, or try to gloss over it?
If you’re trying to decide what to do, know that 52% of hiring managers believe candidates should be proactive in highlighting their break and describing what they’ve learned during their experience outside of work.
Reporting a career break lets you admit that you’ve been absent from the job market, but gives you the opportunity to explain why the time was so valuable and what it could do for a job you’re applying for.
For example, the manager Emma McCulloch took a six-year hiatus from her career to raise her two children, including her son, who was born with cerebral palsy.
She explains: “I felt a little embarrassed about the career break and how to classify it on my CV. I certainly learned a lot of research skills to identify therapies and resources for my children. In my role as a manager, I’m much more empathetic thanks to the experiences I had during my career break.”
You can add a career break section to your CV or explain it in your cover letter. But with many recruiters using LinkedIn looking for talent to join their organization, it also makes sense to add a career break to your profile here.
Add a career break section to LinkedIn
On your LinkedIn account homepage, look under your profile picture and click Add profile section. Under the Heart section, you will have the possibility to Add a career break in a separate box.
At this point, LinkedIn posts a positive reminder that “experiences outside of a linear career path can make people better colleagues, thought partners, and leaders. Share those moments that make you unique.
By clicking on the Type box, you will have the possibility to classify your career break in one of the following 13 options:
- Career transition
- Full-time parenthood
- Sabbatical year
- Dismissal/post abolished
- health and wellbeing
- Pursuit of a personal goal
- Professional development
- Moving house
- Volunteer work
You can also specify the place of your career break as well as the start and end date. If you are currently on a career break, you can tick the box to indicate this.
Adding a career break to your profile must also be related to any jobs you have listed in your current LinkedIn bio. For example, if your biography shows that you currently work for someone, you can choose to end your employment status for that company and move to your career break status instead.
Then use the The description box to explain the context of your career break and the advantages it has brought you. The last step is to press Save to apply the changes to your profile.
Troubleshooting LinkedIn Profile Issues
LinkedIn works best on one of the following internet browsers:
- Internet Explorer
- Microsoft Edge
If you’re having trouble adding a career break to your profile, one of the following solutions may help.
- Log in and out of your LinkedIn profile
- Clear your cache and cookies
- Disable your browser’s pop-up blocker settings
- Use another browser.
If you continue to have issues, you can file a support ticket with LinkedIn Customer Service.
Have the confidence to explain your career break
Although the career break feature is intended for candidates, it’s also a useful tool for companies that are moving towards more inclusive hiring policies. Companies like IBM, PayPal, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, HubSpot and General Motors are committed to helping people re-enter the workforce after a hiatus. They offer professional reintegration and mentoring programs to help these candidates.
LinkedIn’s Career Break feature encourages candidates to confidently acknowledge that they’ve taken a career break and embrace the skills they’ve learned outside of the traditional workplace. If this applies to you, head over to the platform today and update your LinkedIn bio.
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