Kickstarting your career after an extended break

Written and accurate as at: 15 December 2023

Fortunately for many of us, the stigma around career gaps has faded in recent years. Raising children, recovering from illness or injury, or just taking time off for yourself are all considered legitimate reasons for stepping away from the daily grind.

But an extended absence from work can still hurt your confidence, and any anxiety you’re feeling can kick into overdrive when you find yourself sitting across an interviewer. While resuming employment can be challenging, the tips below might help in getting your career back up and running.

Know which options are available to you

Before you rush headfirst into your job search, take some time to think about what exactly you want. Are you looking for full-time work or will you ease yourself back in by working part-time? Do you plan to work in the same occupation or will you be looking to reinvent yourself in a completely different field?

These questions might be best answered with help from your family and friends — and if you know other people who were in the same boat it might be worth seeking their advice too. Once you have a clear idea, you can narrow your search to jobs that align with your strengths and interests, as well as what you’re after in terms of pay and flexibility.

Highlight the experience gained on your break 

Many of us fall into the trap of only valuing work that is paid, but just because something isn’t captured in the GDP doesn’t mean it’s not useful or even economically beneficial. If you spent your break caring for a relative, writing a blog or volunteering in your community, don’t be afraid to mention it. Your experience might have equipped you with more transferable skills than you know. 

Turn to your network

It might have been a year or so since you last mingled with colleagues over drinks, but chances are many of those connections you had are still there. Let your friends and former coworkers know you’re looking for a job — they might be able to put you in touch with someone in their own network who’s hiring.

If you enjoyed your previous job, don’t rule out the possibility of going back either. Assuming you left on good terms, your former employer might be more than happy to see you return — especially if the labour market is tight or they just haven’t had luck finding the right person for a role.

Prepare for the interview

According to a recent LinkedIn survey, 79% of hiring managers wouldn’t hold a career gap against an applicant,1 so try not to be guarded about yours when you land an interview. Doing so might not be received well, and it denies you the chance to talk about the skills you picked up during your time away from the workforce.

The exception to this is if you took time off because of personal reasons. If that’s the case, don’t feel pressured to talk about it at length. You can probably offer a brief explanation before shifting the focus to all the ways you’re qualified for the position. 

These days, most people understand that life doesn’t always progress in a straight line. So long as you can show you’re eager and have the right skillset, the transition back to work might be easier than you expect.


1 LinkedIn