I have taken a career break to look after my wife who has MS. I am looking to get back to the workplace, but I don’t know how to explain my career gap and whether I should do a different kind of CV to the usual chronological ones. What do you suggest?
My advice is to be completely transparent – any employer would understand the reason why you’re taking a career break. If you feel comfortable opening up to people, your authentic self is more likely to shine through. Do bear in mind that it is normal to take time off work to look after loved ones; it’s being comfortable with the story and how much you share that’s important to focus on, especially if you end up taking a long time off and putting your career on hold.
My recommendation would be to create a Functional CV that explains what you can do; it’s great when you are looking to do something new or something you used to do more than 10 years ago and is sometimes also referred to as a competency-based CV or skills CV.
Before your write your CV, remember its purpose, be aware of what a future employer and interviewer will do with your CV, and know exactly what the recruiter wants. Select four to five key skills – these can include everything from employability skills, such as leadership and team-working, commercial awareness and creativity and innovation through personal attributes like enthusiasm, motivation and integrity to technical skills such as knowledge of finance systems or programming languages. Key skills are your strongest skills and those most relevant to the role you’re applying for.
If you focus on the reverse chronological CV, it’s more obvious that you’ve had a career break, not that that’s a bad thing – however, the Functional CV is a great way to demonstrate the skills and talents you have and the career break is less obvious. You can then use your network to make introductions to possible roles. Given 80% roles come through a networking introduction, this is the best way to land a role.
The next most popular way is to search through LinkedIn – spot who knows who and share your career plan with your trusted advisors to let them know what you’re looking for as they will be your eyes and ears. It is no longer enough to just list your job description in the Career History section of your CV. You need to show how you made a difference and added value in your previous roles.
To summarise, I’d recommend being completely transparent to any future employer; but only share what you feel comfortable sharing. Also remember you are not alone – there will be others in a similar boat.
*Liz Sebag-Montefiore is a career coach and Director of 10Eighty, a strengths-based HR consultancy. For more information, please visit www.10Eighty.co.uk.