While it is absolutely true that anyone might be in a position of having taken a career break, we do notice that it is most often the women who do so. Hence, this guide is oriented towards women getting back after a break, but also has useful tips for anyone looking to explain a change of pace, work or even being let go from an earlier organisation.
In other words, this article is for anyone whose transition into a new job isn’t seamless, so to speak.
In our blog series for March, we discussed how women on a break can prepare better for a restart by undergoing coaching and discussion sessions. You can take a look at these articles here.
What Is A Career Break?
If you’ve been away from the workforce long enough for either the job itself, or your role in a team, to have changed, you have been on a career break. A break is usually when someone else has been hired to fill your position, so going back to the same company is not an option.
In that sense of the word, a maternity leave is not, and should not be treated as, a career break. However, you may find that upon returning to your older role, it takes time to adjust to the new demands. If this is the case, have a conversation with your supervisor about the changes you are experiencing, and how you may be able to fit in more seamlessly.
People take career breaks for a variety of reasons- moving to new cities with their spouses, looking after a family member, wanting to experiment with a new career opportunity- the reasons can be many.
But, as a common denominator, most people who return from a break find that they receive the short end of the stick in a job interview and subsequent negotiations. Breaks are still seen by the industry as an interruption in linear growth. Here are a few ways in which you can ace (face?) The interview after a career break without ceding ground and without underselling yourself.
1. Find Out More About The Interview:
Gather information on who is likely to be on the panel and what their focus areas are at work. If you are being referred by a friend, find out how this company usually treats a career break. This gives you an opportunity to evaluate if the company is the right fit for you culturally, and whether you want to take this to the interview stage.
If you are invited for a full interview, be prepared to answer questions about the break period, and to demonstrate that you have used it in a certain way. Corporates may not see it readily, but bringing up children, managing a sick family member and even just running a household are tasks involving complex management skills. The onus may eventually fall on you to demonstrate this to them. Do it with confidence.
2. Be Open About Discussing The Break:
Know, and accept that this will be the elephant in the room. If you seem uncertain, an interviewer might quickly latch on to the insecurities and grill you further.
Talk about the skills you developed during the break which can directly contribute to the job you’ve applied for. Talk about all the opportunities you explored, and how they helped you focus on what you would really like to do. Also, don’t forget to talk about how much you expect to learn and implement on the job itself. Enthusiasm cannot be hidden for very long.
3. Look For Programs Tailor-made For You:
Many companies today have a second innings career path that is meant to encourage people on a break to come back. Even in interviews for these roles, they look for some key markers like readiness to join the workforce again, and coach-ability.
Such roles are meant to help you come back into the workforce and usually do not discriminate. If you do find that the interviewer has some hesitance to hiring you, bring up the conversation openly, and in a balanced manner. Discuss the issue and explain your point of view.
4. Do A Bunch of Mock Interviews:
It has been a while since you’ve had to negotiate anything in formalwear and a boardroom setting. It helps immensely to run through a few mock interviews customised for your particular situation.
For one, they will allow you to get back into the professional zone and put yourself front and centre. Then, they can also help you prepare for questions that are most likely to come up. An experienced guide can also help identify issues with posture and body language and help you correct them in a neutral environment.
At RainKraft, we’re all about the second innings! We strongly believe that people returning from a break bring an extra dash of passion to the table. Our mock interview solutions are customised to suit every individual’s needs and to help them ace the first interview in a long, long time, almost like it were only yesterday!