How to Address Your Careers Break on Your CV
January 30 2018 By: Nikki Vivian
Going back to a career after you’ve taken a break can be quite anxiety inducing and then you have the added dilemma of how to address this break on your CV. Don’t panic. You may receive varying advice about this but in reality, a break in your career really won’t hold you back if it is presented right and you don’t allow anything to be viewed as a negative point.
Do you write about the break or avoid it?
The most frequent question I’m asked by women returning to work after a break is, ‘do I include the break or gloss over it’. This will depend on a few factors: how long the break was, what else you did during the break and how long ago it was.
How long was the break? – If you had a break from your career because you were on maternity leave, you don’t need to mention this at all. Maternity leave is a legal requirement and you have not left the job, so there is no need to mention your time out- phew!
A longer break may need explaining but there are ways to put a positive spin on things. Instead of saying you were a ‘housewife’ or ‘stay at home mum’ for example, you can say something like ‘3-year break in my career to care for my young family. I am now ready to devote my time to my career and I’m looking forward to a new challenge’.
What else did you do during your break? – If you did other things whilst on your career break, like a voluntary position, you can add this to your professional experience section instead of mentioning the break, or to make it appear shorter. Are you a member of the PTA? Did you set up a parent/toddler group or something similar? Anything you can add to show that you still like to use your professional skills will serve you well.
How long ago was the break? – If you’re currently on a break, everything I’ve said applies, however, if your break was a while ago and you’ve been employed since, the break will be less significant. Roles from further back in your professional history can be amalgamated and anything from more than 5 years ago, will be less significant than your most recent entries anyway, so there is no need to worry.
Tailor your CV to a role
CVs need to be targeted. General CVs that you send to anyone and everyone are a huge no as far as I’m concerned. If you are the best person for a job, you need to make this absolutely clear on your CV and you do this by tailoring your CV to each role you apply for. If an employer can see you are what they are looking for, a career break won’t be a glaring negative. You need to prove that despite being out of the game, you have everything needed to get the job and succeed at it.
One of the best ways to disguise a long break and to demonstrate that you’re the person for the job regardless, is to avoid the traditional ‘chronological CV’ that you see so often. A chronological CV lists your professional experience in reverse order with most recent first. This method puts your career break right at the top as the information that is seen first. Basic sales psychology will tell you that to win someone over, you need to hit them with what they want to hear from the off. A great profile with details of who you are and what you can do (which is tailored to the role) followed by a skills section is my preferred structure. The skills section is also tailored to the role and will allow you to demonstrate how you meet the person specification. If these sections impress, what follows is much less important, you’ve already won them over.
Don’t get bogged down with thoughts of how to hide a career break. Make the most of what you did on the break and all the skills you have previously. Taking a break to bring up a family is totally valid and will be viewed very differently to a CV of someone who has lots of short employment entries with gaps in between. Focus on what you can do and make sure that the first sections on your CV are highlighting your best points.
If you need help with your CV, please check out my CV writing services, or join my Facebook group for free practical support and a chance to meet other women like you, who are looking to return to work after taking time out to raise a family, or are looking for a new career direction.