How to mention a career break to raise a family on a CV
Updated 1 August 2023
Taking time away from work to raise a family is a valid reason for a career break. Once you decide to return to work and begin your search for a new job, employers may ask about your period of unemployment. Knowing how to explain this during recruitment may increase your chances of re-entering the workforce quickly. In this article, we discuss how to mention a career break to raise a family on a CV and share tips you can use to prepare for discussing this topic during a job interview.
What is a career break to raise a family?
A career break to raise a family is when you take time off work and focus on raising children and caring for your family members. Depending on the situation, you may not work for a couple of months, but extending this to a few years is possible if you decide it's best for your family. There are many family-related reasons why you may have decided to take a break. As you're approaching the time that you're ready to return to work, remember that the reason for dedicating time to your family is valid.
How to mention a career break to raise a family on a CV
Learning how to mention a career break to raise a family on a CV allows you to present yourself as a dedicated and suitable candidate who's ready to return to work after a period of unemployment. As a career break ends, people often wonder how they can explain the break to employers. Here are some steps to help you explain your career break in your CV:
1. Reflect on your career break
As you prepare to re-enter the workforce, reflect on your time away from work. Think about any new skills you've acquired during this time. Even if you decided to focus on your children and family completely, this experience is likely to have taught you some valuable skills. For example, when someone cares for multiple children, they're likely to develop their time management skills, and managing a young person's time off school due to sickness can encourage flexibility. These are valuable transferable skills that employers in any industry value in candidates.
2. Make a list of your achievements
Listing your achievements helps you feel more confident when applying for jobs. Your list can include both family- and career-related achievements. To analyse them, think about your initial goals, what you did and how it felt to accomplish each objective. Even activities such as learning a new software program at home show your dedication and ability to complete projects with a structured plan.
3. Include the break as a separate section on your CV
As you prepare your CV template, use the work experience section to address your period of unemployment. When listing your jobs, add the break and its time frame. This shows employers how long you've been away from work. Instead of bullet points explaining responsibilities in a work role, mention some notable accomplishments from the list you made in the previous step.
4. Choose a functional CV
To ensure employers notice your skills and abilities first, create your CV using a functional template. Functional CVs include the work experience section lower on the page. This increases the probability that recruiters read your professional summary and learn about your skills before they discover the time you spent away from the workplace. Choosing this CV format is also suitable if you've decided to transition to a different industry after your break.
5. Show that you've been continuously learning
Lifelong learning is a valuable asset that can help you find a new job and advance your career after some time. Consider using your skills and certificates sections to demonstrate your willingness to learn. After listing the qualifications and practical abilities you've obtained during your break, mention the year or month you obtained them. This way, the recruiter can see that you made time for professional growth, even while caring for your family.
6. Use a cover letter to address the gap in more detail
If you want to discuss your career break and what it taught you in more detail, consider writing a cover letter containing this information. In the letter, address the break in a few sentences. Then, depending on how transparent you want to be, mention why you decided to take time away from work and what you did during that time. Make sure you conclude your letter by sharing your career goals and plans, as this helps employers realise that you're ambitious and serious about returning to work permanently.
Tips for discussing your career break to raise children in a job interview
After mentioning your career break on your CV, employers are likely to ask about it in person during an interview. Therefore, when you receive a job interview invitation, start preparing to discuss the break and what you've learned with recruiters. Here are some additional interview tips:
Honesty is a key quality to demonstrate as a candidate for a job. Answering interview questions honestly when the hiring manager mentions your career break to raise a family shows your potential to remain transparent and loyal to your employer. Remember that it's appropriate to disclose as many or as few details as you feel comfortable with. It's also perfectly acceptable to generalise your answer if you don't want to disclose personal information about your family. Instead, you can focus on the new skills you developed and their suitability for the job.
Research the questions an interviewer might ask
Recruiters may ask about your career break in different ways. Some questions might be on general topics, and others may be more direct and require detailed answers. Whatever questions an interviewer asks you, answer honestly, as this can help you find a job that aligns not only with your skills but also your career expectations. Here are examples of career break questions a recruiter might ask when you decide to re-enter the workforce:
'Have you developed any new skills while away from work?'
'In your opinion, what effect has this break had on your career?'
'How do you plan to adjust to full-time work after this break?'
'Why are you looking for a job now?'
'Discuss some goals you've accomplished during your career break.'
Rehearse your answers
As your interview approaches, try rehearsing your answers to the questions a recruiter might ask. These include questions about your career break and general or detailed ones that test your knowledge of the industry you want to work in. If possible, practise with a friend or family member to remind yourself what it feels like to experience a real job interview. If that's not an option, consider practising in front of a mirror. This acting technique can help you learn to control your facial expressions and make sure you use the right tone.
Discuss your long-term goals
An effective way to convince employers that you're ready to return to work is to discuss your long-term goals. By sharing what you want to accomplish in the next few years, you demonstrate your willingness to continue building your career. As you share your plans, consider making them specific to the role and the organisation interviewing you. This way, you can show the recruiter that you want to stay with the employer long term if they offer you the position.
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