BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
Whether you choose to or it’s forced upon you, you might need to take time away from your career. Regardless of the reason, navigating the reentry can be stressful and worry-inducing, especially when you’re letting anxiety take over.
I remember talking to a friend of mine who had stayed at home for a few years to raise her kids after a successful business. She sold her business, took 5 years off, and when she tried to go back to work, every worry and concern hit her like a ton of bricks: she was convinced the working world had changed that much that she couldn’t just “go back in” – and while there were a few changes, for the most part, everything was still exactly the same as when she left.
So what’s the problem? The same one that affects people with any sort of gap in their work history or resume: confidence. I’m not saying it’s easy to answer the tough questions like “Why did you take time off?” especially when you are being interviewed by someone who could never dream of a “break” for “personal reasons.” After this stretch of remote schooling, COVID, and 2020 in general, we’ll see many more breaks in resumes and career history – especially for women – and we need to learn how to talk about it.
This might be obvious, but be honest about why you took a gap. You don’t have to give every single tiny detail, but you should be able to say it was for personal reasons, family reasons, or health reasons and leave it there. Don’t wait until you are in the interview to say it either; practice saying it out loud ahead of time and make sure you can say it in a way that is clear, with finality. You don’t have to go into great detail about it or give all of the background information as to why you needed to take the time off. Just say it and be ready to move on.
Ok, so you’re probably worried that you’re going to be judged for taking that time off, right? Here’s a not-so-well-known fact: people that judge other people think everyone is always judging them. It’s one of those “Oh, well I judge so of course they judge!” moments – and the truth is, if we think that we are constantly being judged, we might be judging other people. One of the things to combat this? Stop judging people! Don’t compare yourself to others – compare yourself to yourself. Your growth should be compared to your own growth.
Easier said than done right? Here’s a motivator – if you are nervous about someone judging you, you’re going to pass that nervous energy off to the person interviewing you or talking to you about the job you’re looking to get! You don’t need that negativity, trust me.
Lead With Your Value
Repeat after me: I have value no matter how long of a break I took from the workforce.
Say that as many times as you need for you to believe it – or at least fake it until you believe it! We’re coming off of a period of immense trauma, and a lot of folks have had to take a leave from work for their kids, lost a job because of COVID, or made a change moving to another part of the country or state – circumstances that aren’t always the most confidence-inspiring. A gap in work history can leave us feeling “less than,” and in reality, everyone has them!
Take time out to think about how to be comfortable with the time you needed to take off from your career. If you need to feel accomplished, or have something to talk about, take an online class or two in a skillset you’ve always wanted to master. And above all, remember: you have value!