If you are worrying that taking a career break could have a negative impact on your career, think again. A career break can show a potential employer that you have get up and go, a sense of adventure, languages and other skills, as well as possible leadership or management experience, depending on what you choose to do.
Elizabeth Bacchus of The Successful CV (www.thesuccessfulcv.com) runs a CV writing company. Elizabeth and her staff look at hundreds of CVs a month, and gives us her advice on how you can use your career break as a way to catapult your career.
Expand Your Skills
The job market is certainly tough at the moment so, for instance, by undertaking voluntary work in a different region you can expand your skill set and gain a wider portfolio of transferable skills to offer employers on your return. Companies do recognise the value of individuals who have gained different experiences in overseas regions - whatever they might be.
Work to get Your CV Looking Good
The key is to try and focus on work that is going to compliment your overall career plans. For instance someone focused on building a career in project management could be undertaking a wide variety of voluntary work all of which would on some level encompass working with a varied groups of individuals, both volunteers and programme coordinators great for a future role that requires an ability to coordinate with multiple stakeholders.
Experience gained could include working across a different number of projects and initiatives; this will enable you to gain experience in managing multiple tasks and projects concurrently, honing skills in time management, meeting deadlines, developing clear communication skills especially when working with people speaking other languages. Working abroad will undoubtedly require one to be resourceful and adapt to new often diverse environments these are valuable skills to offer a new employer. New environments can bring up a number of challenges so being able to illustrate measurable problem solving abilities, especially in a diverse culture, will also be a useful transferable asset.
"We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves."
- Pico Iyer
Its important to understand what your main priority is when undertaking a career break. Is it to take some time out to really understand where you want to focus your career, perhaps transition toward a career change? Is it due to redundancy and there being a shortage of suitable roles in your industry sector. Whatever the reason, think strategically in terms of why you want a career break, what you aim to get out of it and how it will benefit your career as you move forward be selective in terms of the right fit.
For Older Travellers
It's critical to illustrate that as a more mature applicant you have kept up with industry trends and how your travel experiences have enabled you to do this. It will also help show employers how you can adapt to new environments. Perhaps whilst you were away you have made use of social media to keep in touch with friends and family. Do include if you have learnt new skills which will be beneficial to prospective employers.
Presenting Yourself in the Best Light
"A gap year can provide an applicant with the opportunity to stand out from the crowd."
Focus on the transferable skills you have gained and how these provide bottom line benefits to future employers. In particular things like leadership, managing multiple projects, working in pressurised surroundings, speaking additional languages, etc - be specific. Things like these can be presented in a skills section. The most important aspect though is to make sure you provide measurable examples not just that you have leadership skills etc. Employers are receiving many CVs with first class degrees etc but a gap year can provide an applicant with the opportunity to stand out from the crowd in terms of life experiences that have matured you as an individual and given you much deeper insights to the outside world. Do think about how these experiences have made you a more rounded individual with a wider portfolio of skills that will be of benefit to an organisation. This can be covered really well in a strong cover letter.