Taking time away from work to care for your family is a very common reason for a career gap. Whether it be to raise children or take care of an elderly or sick family member, making sure it is on your CV can be important. There can be a stigma around career gaps, but life is more than just work and your other priorities need to be addressed when looking for a new role.
Whilst you may not have been working in a professional environment, caring for others brings a whole new host of skills that can be really valuable in the workplace. We learn new things every day and caring for your family should be something you feel comfortable talking about in an interview. It should be something that employers look to support.
Including it on your CV
The first step is to add your career break onto your CV. This is the first line of communication between you and the employer. Where it is great to include the time period in which you were away from work, try to take the opportunity to add a bit more information about your break. This time wasn’t spent doing nothing worthwhile, so make sure you share experiences and skills.
Add the time frame - Employers may want to know how long you have been away from work. Just as you would with a ‘normal’ job on your CV, include the time period you were working away from work.
The skills you learnt - Taking a career break to care for someone isn’t a holiday. Work is done, lessons are learnt and it’s a really valuable way to spend your time. There can often be negativity around this time because you weren’t working or up-skilling, when in fact, you were doing exactly that. You can talk about time-management, patience, resilience, communication, and the ability to juggle multiple tasks at once.
What did you achieve? - When talking about jobs, it’s important to include your achievements as well as your day-to-day responsibilities. Do exactly this when discussing a career break. What was your goal, what did you achieve and how did this make you feel? Caring for family can be incredibly rewarding, talk about it!
Title it honestly - It’s important to talk about your career gap honestly. It’s likely an employer will notice a gap in employment without a prompt, so don’t give them the opportunity to put you on the spot. Unless you really don’t want to, share what you were doing, who you were caring for and all of the points mentioned above. It will only help your application.
Skills are transferable
Transferable skills are something you should shout from the rooftops about. It’s something we talk about a lot in our articles, and you should really be discussing them on your CV and during interviews as well. Most jobs will be asking for technical or job-specific skills, but soft and transferable skills are just as important, if not more in some occasions.
Employers are looking for people that can do their day job. But they’re looking for individuals that can bring something extra to the team. The skills you have learnt during your career break have probably gone unnoticed but they’re exactly what employers are looking for.
- Being able to listen to those around you
- Clear and effective communication
- Being able to organise your time and make the most of what you have
- Problem solving
- Being able to work well under pressure
These are all skills employers want. Now is your time to persuade them, make the most of it!
Prepare to answer any questions
Employers are likely to mention your career break during an interview, so make sure you are prepared for this. Some may have no problem discussing their time, but it may be a bit more personal for others. Whichever situation you find yourself in, prepare interview answers no matter what. You don’t have to share specific details if you don’t want to but mention what you were doing, time spent and why you’re not looking for a new role. They just want to be able to accommodate you as well as they can, and this information may help the employer do that.
You can have notes ready if you feel this would be best. Sometimes you may have spent a long time away from work and over a period of time, it can be difficult to remember what you’ve learnt and achieved. Especially if it was a negative time in your life.
How to answer questions about your career break
You want to discuss the points you included on your CV. So, the time frame, your achievements and what you learnt. Take time developing an answer but you can use the STAR method here if you feel it suits. You can read more about the STAR method over on our career and advice page.
“During my time away from work, I was caring for my new-born child. I started my maternity/paternity leave 27th November and I intend to go back to work in early November of this year. During this time, I was caring and raising my son/daughter and this time taught me a lot about myself. It was an incredibly difficult time for me, but I’m now able to look back and feel positive about all I have achieved with my son/daughter and my family as a whole. This time has taught me that patience is incredibly important. Everyone learns at their own pace and being able to find a timetable that suits everyone can be crucial. This time taught be a whole range of skills but my time-management is one that really stands out to me. You are looking for someone that can deliver tasks on time and multi-task, when necessary, I think from this experience, I am able to provide that for you.”
The above answer is just a small example of what you could be using as an answer to a career break question. Whatever your situation, this answer can be adapted and amended to suit you. Make sure you are taking the time to prepare this in advance and really giving yourself the credit you deserve. Career breaks shouldn’t be looked down on, they should be embraced!