How do employers really feel about career breaks?

Ian Tittley
by Ian Tittley 14 December 2020

According to the Office for National Statistics, 1.8 million UK women (and 0.2 million men) are not in paid employment because they are looking after a relative. Family is just one of the many reasons why we take a career break. Research by Aviva suggests that 29 percent of employees expect to leave work to care for children, grandchildren, or loved ones. One in six of us take a career break due to stress. What about those that want to travel the world or explore a new passion? It’s not surprising that more organisations are introducing sabbaticals as an employee benefit, but the stigma around career breaks hasn’t diminished entirely. According to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers three in five women return to a lower-paid job or take a position with less seniority after taking a career break. 

Has COVID-19 helped employers see the bigger picture?

During the pandemic, we had a window into people’s lives, a wake-up call that everyone’s circumstances are different. Some companies were forced to enable homeworking and flexible hours, and many were surprised by the results. In a recent survey, we asked over 160 IT leaders, whether working from home had increased employee productivity; over 50 percent said yes. Three-quarters of the survey respondents said employees were now more likely to work from home. The point is that the pandemic has enabled managers to drop preconceived ideas, step away from rigid structures and embrace new ways of working.

Why you shouldn’t rule out candidates that have had a career break

Post COVID-19 organisations will continue to hire homeworkers, meaning there will be more competition amongst employers. Through careful consideration of a person’s skills, you can tap into a pool of talent that other employers are ruling out, those with a break on their CV. With the rise of the Gig economy, you may also find that candidates have been subsidising their income. Whilst loyalty and length of service were once considered appropriate employment metrics, creativity, entrepreneurship, and softer skills are the new world metrics. Employees that have worked for several employers and taken career breaks are likely to bring different qualities such as higher levels of empathy, resourcefulness, and blue-sky thinking.

Unconscious Bias (social stereotypes that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness) can prevent you from hiring the right person. Your interview panel should be diverse, and you should carefully consider the questions you ask regarding a career break. To find out more about Unconscious Bias and how to avoid it join our free online webinar.

 

“Recruitment has changed over the past 12 months with a huge focus being on softer skills as well as technical ability as we all adapt to a ‘new normal’ following COVID-19. At Water Plus, it’s really important for us to find passionate, driven, and committed professionals to join our team as well as those with the experience of specific roles. Life teaches us many lessons and a lot of those you’d never learn from a classroom qualification or in the Board Room; this is why our recruitment process takes into account life experiences which will often accompany an employment break of some sort. We all have a family at home, hobbies and commitments – they’re what make us unique and so desirable for an exciting and energetic company to recruit!”

- Abby Lewis, PMO Manager, Water Plus.

 

How do you maximise your chances of employment after a career break?

  1. Do not leave gaps on your CV; honesty is the best policy: Explain your career gaps succinctly on your CV, using the same format as the rest of your employment history.
  1. Highlight your skills on your CV: Consider using a different layout such as a skills-based CV.
  1. Demonstrate your commitment: How have you kept up to date with trends in your industry or technology advancements? Have you maintained professional memberships or attended courses and events? Highlight these on your CV and give more examples of this during your interview. 
  1. Drop the defensiveness: Anticipate being asked about your career break in interviews and evidence your willingness to learn new skills. 
  1. Don’t let ‘imposter syndrome’ creep in: There is never a ‘perfect candidate’, your potential employer may have a wish list, but many don’t expect to find someone that has every skill or qualification. They are looking for the right fit for them, and it could be you. 
  1. Consider boosting your confidence with a ‘Returnship’: A Returnship is usually a contract of around three to six months, that includes a range of support mechanisms for those returning to work. The Government have backed many of these schemes which typically see around 80 percent of candidates back in permanent employment after a Returnship.

Here are just a few of the organisations that have benefited from offering technology based Returnships, since the concept was introduced in 2014.

  • Accenture
  • Capgemini
  • BBC
  • Deloitte
  • FDM
  • EY
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Lloyds

“I took a decision pre-covid to take some time out. Time to spend with my family and offer the support my daughter needed at that time. I became a carer, something that I was, I felt, unprepared for, but the decision to do this was a no brainer for me, it was a responsibility that I wanted to take, and I gave it no second thought...that is until it was time to return to the workplace. What would recruiters and employers make of this "sabbatical" (it definitely wasn't) and would this hamper my opportunities in securing a role.

I think the answer is, I've found, embrace the change you made, be proud of what you have achieved, being brave, not being driven by only financial gain. I believe my change skills have been enhanced by this time out, EQ rather than IQ, empathy, understanding, patience, an appreciation of what really matters gives your mind clarity. In the end, when I secured my current role it really didn't matter, I was employed for who I was, and the previous 12 months were part of that...so embrace it, and honestly, if you're being viewed any other way then it's probably not an individual or organisation you want to work with.”

- IT Leader, Andrew Gray.

 

A career break is increasingly more common, understanding why and the advantages it can bring is as important for employers as it is candidates. A better work-life balance and a diverse workforce is a benefactor for employers. Simply having an open mind when receiving a CV with a career break could lead to hiring an exceptional candidate. Meanwhile, the organisations that are offering sabbaticals and Returnships, we salute you, you’re helping to abolish the stigma behind career breaks.

If you’re a tech professional looking for more advice on how to secure employment after a career break or for complimentary advice on how to stand out in the market, register for a free CV review

Hiring an IT professional? Want to talk through how to attract the best candidates or need advice on your interview process? Contact our Senior Recruitment Consultant, Ian Tittley; he is happy to help: ian.tittley@crimson.co.uk

Topics: IT Recruitment, Career Coaching, career break