Two women professionals sit at an office table with a resume.

How to address career breaks

No longer red flags, resume gaps are getting a rebrand

It’s no secret the pandemic disproportionately affected women’s careers – and the loss is still apparent. According to an article by the Society of Human Resources Management, while women gained 188,000 jobs in January 2022, they are still short by more than 1.8 million jobs lost since February 2020. Men, however, have regained all the jobs they lost due to the public health crisis.

As women embark on this uphill battle to gain traction in the jobs market, one very real concern is how to address resume gaps.

A job seeker’s guide

First, you should know career breaks are common, especially for women. Research conducted by LinkedIn revealed 65% of women surveyed have experienced a career break at some point, which included reasons like parental leave, medical leave and mental health breaks.

LinkedIn recognized the need to add “career break” job titles in the experience section of users’ profiles to allow members to mark the time they stepped away from work. There are 13 new titles, including caregiving, career transition, bereavement, personal goal pursuit, voluntary work, and health and well-being break, for example. When it comes to your resume, you can mirror these terms. 

You might be wondering if you should draw so much attention to the career break by noting it on LinkedIn or your resume in the first place. Maybe it will just slide under the radar if the resume screener doesn’t look closely at the dates, right? But, according to LinkedIn, more than half of hiring managers surveyed said they are more likely to contact a candidate that provides context about their career gap than those who don’t.

Your resume or an interview is the perfect time to provide a little more information about the career break. It may make the prospect more comfortable for you if you plan to talk about relevant transferrable skills you gained or sharpened during your time away from the paid workforce. Be prepared to make the connection about your caretaking responsibilities fine-tuning time management skills or your volunteer work exposing you to large-scale project management.

A hiring manager’s tip

Career gaps are just not the red flags they used to be. There are a variety of reasons women step away from work for a while. And many absences, even if they weren’t planned, are times of growth and learning. If you’re in the hiring seat, it’s your job to determine if a candidate is qualified for the position you’re looking to fill, so make a point to focus on the skills they can bring to the business now.

You can further break the stigma by talking about career gaps in a positive way and as part of your story. If you hire others, be sure you give candidates the opportunity to show you how a previous career break makes them a better potential employee.

Next steps

If you’re ready to jump back into your career, be sure to:

  • Map transferrable skills you gained during your career break to the position you’re applying for
  • Provide context for why you stepped away from work if you’re comfortable sharing, even if you generalize it
  • Speak to your advisor about financial and other budgetary changes you should consider