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2024 Virtual Return to Work Conference, May 14-16

Leveraging Your Caretaking Responsibilities in Your Story

Caretaking is one of the most common reasons for taking a career break, yet many of us are uncertain how to express that experience for a successful relaunch. Kendell Brown offers four effective tips to help you overcome your doubts and describe your career break with confidence.

Leveraging Your Caretaking Responsibilities Blog

By Kendell Brown

Kendell Brown is a former member of the iRelaunch Career Coaching team. Founder of Ascension Careers and a relauncher herself, She works with clients with to ascertain and achieve their career goals via strategic planning, positioning and branding assessments, identifying transferrable skills and providing counsel for working through challenging work situations.

You left your career to take care of someone – young children, aging parents, a sick spouse or even yourself. Now you’re ready to get back to work. Can you even get back to work after a gap? Yes. Can you get back to work even when caregiving was your primary focus? Yes. Below are a few tips for thinking about your caregiving and how to showcase that experience.

Don’t apologize for taking a break.

Here are a few things you do not need to defend: your dog’s name, your favorite movie, your most recent haircut, and your decision to leave the work force. Why? None of these decisions impact your ability to effectively perform on the job. Inevitably, your break will come up. I advise you to address the break but not apologize for taking it. Include the break in your elevator pitch – “I’m a results-driven, strategic thinker that spent 12 years as an engineer in the automotive industry with increasing responsibilities. I’ve spent the last 6 years raising my children and managing my parents’ healthcare needs. I’ve gained a ton of skills during this time ranging from persuasive advocacy to priority setting. I’m now ready to get back to work and I’m capable of being fully committed to my next position."

This pitch is everything a manager needs to know – your industry experience, your functional depth, the skills you’ll bring to role and your willingness to be part of the paid workforce. Think about it – a job seeker without a break never has to apologize or explain away a prior role, you shouldn’t either.

Skills from a break are skills like any other.

Transferrable skills are exactly that: transferrable. Just because you developed skills away from the paid workforce doesn’t mean that you can only use those skills at home. Did you take a break to care for your elderly father? If so, you likely navigated convoluted financial, medical, and housing issues. The tenacity, perseverance, and resourcefulness required to effectively research and manage these topics stay with you. Highlighting the skills, you gained during your break demonstrates that although you were not traditionally working, you continued to build and broaden your skillset. You will surely leverage these skills in your next career phase. Consequently, don’t be shy about listing these skills on your resume, LinkedIn profile, and of course mention them when networking.

Didn’t do much during your break? There’s still time.

Yes, there are loads of relaunchers that spent their break volunteering, organizing, coordinating, etc. – basically they were busier than when they were working. They’ve got all kinds of notable accomplishments from their break to share. But, what if you didn’t volunteer, you avoided getting involved, you didn’t get a new certification, you didn’t stay on top of the industry? What if you leaned hard into the “stay-at-home”?

Recent data suggests that a job search in 2022 can take six+ months and anecdotally a relauncher’s job search will add another 4-6+ months. The time between when you begin actively looking to landing an offer can be a year or more. That’s loads of time to start “padding” your break. It’s important to know – there’s little difference between “I organized Charity X’s fundraising event” and “I’m organizing Charity X’s fundraising event.” Don’t despair over “wasted” break time. Find volunteer opportunities, take classes, get certified – it’s not too late to get started. Take comfort in the fact that a “better late than never” strategy means that: your skills are recently honed, your industry research is relevant and your certification is based on current standards.

Don’t apologize, part 2

We spoke earlier about not apologizing for your break. How does this sound? “I took a career break so I could do THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB IN THE WORLD. I stayed home to raise my children.” Taking ownership of your break doesn’t mean being holier than thou. I’ve never heard a hiring manager say, “Well, she really offended me in the interview, so I gave her the offer.” Just as you don’t want to be unfairly judged for taking a break (whatever the reason) you don’t want to come across as judging someone else’s career path. Take care to present the break as an informed choice that worked for you.

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