Career Breaks happen… They happen to 48% of Indian Women Professionals at some point in their lives. Marriage, maternity, motherhood, elder care, ill-health or sometimes pursuance of a higher degree – they happen for reasons myriad depending on the life stage of the IWP in question. If you are a second career woman reading this piece, there is something more you need to know – that there are 1.8 million Indian women in the club! No wonder that women careers are sometimes likened to the letter ‘M’ – to signify an initial peak, a dip and then a peak again. We are going to discuss on what completion of the ‘M’ career graph entails, on what breaking even after a career break involves! The first step is of course, to become ‘intentional’ about the comeback, to make the decision and pursue it intentionally. With 30% of corporate India sensitive to the case of ‘second career women as a talent pool’, the second and perhaps the cornerstone of the comeback is a powerful, intentional resume – that is rooted on your identity, that validates your intentions of a comeback and that authentically talks about the …. gap. Basis our years of close observation of the segues of several second career women, here are a few pointers that can help a career returner (and this is gender agnostic) in the process of redrafting the resume to make it corporate ready and corporate relevant. Here we go:
- Do not leave any time unaccounted for in the resume. Create the following categories in resume:
Experience (not Work Experience) – Mention any consulting that you have undertaken under this category. It could even be unpaid consulting such as helping a start-up, working on projects, doing some research, etc. Occasional consulting also counts. Mention these as bullet points under this category. Blogging or writing articles related to your field of work/industry can also be mentioned here.
Volunteering/Pro-bono consulting – Any volunteering work that you undertook of your own interest – with an organized NGO or any other community you are part of can be featured here.
Training programme – Clearly mention any training programme – MOOCs, certificate courses (online or offline) that you pursued during the break. Explain the context under which you took the course, of course driving home your ‘intention’.
Professional membership – Also mention if you have joined any professional associations during this time. These could be industry bodies, organisations exclusively for professionals of your trade or college alumni associations. Attending any seminars, conferences, meetings or trade fairs can also be mentioned .
Personal experience – If you feel that no ‘quantifiable’ work was done during the break, then create this category towards the end of the resume. Along with the timeline, mention the reasons for break such as Family Caregiver, Parental leave, International travel, etc. Blogging related to hobbies/interests such as cooking, travel, fashion, etc. can be mentioned here.
- Emphatically, talk about the skills acquired during the break time – Under each of the above mentioned category, mention the skills that you have acquired under that particular category. Please remember that the basic skill profile of a productive corporate worker resonates with yours – authenticity, commitment, time-management and energy management!
- ‘Metric-ise’ your achievements wherever possible – Try to quantize and metric-ise your achievements both pre-break and on-break. Be very specific in your communication around this. For e.g. rather than a vague summary of your extra-curricular activities in college, talk about that specific ‘debate’ competition you won. Or the target accomplishment of the fundraising project you did as part of your volunteering work.
- Ask for LinkedIn Recommendations – This will up-league your LinkedIn profile and will enhance the trust levels. So while creating a powerful LinkedIn profile, give specific focus to the recommendation section as well. Seek recommendations from previous colleagues/bosses, your mentors, college seniors who are well placed, your professors.
- Last but not the least, let the ‘gap’ be – It is important to be honest and open while projecting a career break in the resume. Do not try to hide it, neither leave it blank or the gap unaccounted. It is critical to focus on the skills and the experience that was gained during the break – it is about using the break to your advantage. If you have taken the break for maternity or care giving reasons, please remember that caregiving is an important human and economic activity. So it is okay to take a career break, factually speak about it in your refurbished CV – just do not feel apologetic about it.
To re-iterate, breaks happen, but Career ‘reconstructions’ also happen – only that as a champion of women’s workforce participation in the country, we want it to happen more often. And yes – If you were with us up till this point, you have already upped your ante! Here’s wishing you a successful, fulfilling career comeback!