A caregiving break need not have a negative impact on your CV
There is the assumption that careers are straightforward and that we should progress from role to role with an upward trajectory. But career paths are rarely linear. Twists, turns, and pauses are common. As a result, recruiters are familiar with candidates that have experienced a career break and often recognise that a hiatus from the working world does not necessarily detract from someone's employability.
Returning to work after a career break due to family reasons can be anxiety-inducing, especially with the added stress of trying to sell yourself on your CV to land a role that's compatible with your current circumstances. Rest assured that the career break itself won't affect your chances of landing a role. It's simply a case of explaining the career gap on your CV in the right way for the vacancy, so that your skills and experiences are presented in the best light.
In this article, we'll cover how to address a career break due to family reasons on your CV, including taking a break to raise a family and other caregiving absences.
Be upfront about the reasons for your career break
Career breaks due to caregiving duties are common. In fact, around one in eight adults are carers in the UK. Therefore, don't assume that a career gap is a disadvantage and be confident about addressing it.
Studies suggest that being upfront about a career break may help you more than you think. One experiment involving female applicants by economists at Vanderbilt Law School found that the applicants in theoretical hiring scenarios were 30% to 40% more likely to be chosen if they volunteered the reason for their CV gap, in comparison to applicants that didn't.
The research suggests that, for women at least, those in a position to hire would prefer to know about the reason for a gap as opposed to being left uncertain in their evaluation, as they felt that they could reasonably evaluate a person's candidacy. It seems that being upfront about a career break averts ambiguity, and this is something recruiters respect, therefore strengthening your chances of an interview.
Reflect on the purpose of your CV
Before you start editing an old CV or writing a new one, remember the CV's purpose and what a potential employer will do with the document. It is, of course, roughly two sides of A4 detailing your skills and experience relevant to the role you're applying for to demonstrate your suitability for the vacancy. Recruiters will review your CV, amongst many others, and evaluate whether you could be a good fit for the role based on what you've listed.
Bear this purpose in mind as you prepare your CV. Shifting your mindset to focus on what sells your candidacy, rather than what might depreciate your application, will help you to realise that a career break isn't something you need to defend or apologise for. Reframing thoughts will aid your confidence and your ability to talk matter of factly.
Consider adopting a functional CV format
If you've taken a career break because of parental leave or caregiver duties, it's likely you've taken an extended period of time off. If you've had over a year out of work, you may want to consider using a functional CV format.
A chronological CV format is the most common, listing positions and employers in reverse chronological order. In this instance, your career break would be the most recent “position”. A functional CV format, however, focuses on skills, abilities, and achievements, with details of employment further down the document.
The advantage of a functional CV for those that have experienced a career break is that it puts your skill set front and centre and allows you to demonstrate how you meet the person specification. This is even better if you tailor your skills to the role.
That said, the best CV format depends on your background and the industry you're looking to enter. If you've worked in a single industry for most of your career and are looking to continue this, then a chronological CV may still work better.
Reformat dates for shorter career breaks for family reasons
Many job hunters forget that a CV isn't an overview of their entire career to date. Instead, it should offer a powerful overview of the last 10 to 15 years of work and your achievements along the way. This often means eliminating early work history on your CV.
If your career break was under a year long, you could keep a chronological CV format but amend the employment history dates to address the gap. Try omitting the months from what's listed on your CV and display only the years instead. However, avoid extending dates to mask any gaps. This could get you into more trouble than it's worth. Remember too that your previous employment may well have officially terminated months after your parental leave began.
Tweak your professional title to show your skills and ambition
Every CV begins with your name, professional title, and contact details. When you're returning to work after a career break due to raising a family or other form of caregiving, there are a couple of ways you can leverage your professional title to stand out.
If you've been a full-time parent for a while, you may choose to own the fact that you're a mother or father by listing your job title as “full-time mother”, “domestic engineer”, or “full-time carer and household manager”. This usually works best for roles that predominantly require transferable skills, as employers of these positions are typically open to candidates from all professions and experiences where soft skills have been cultivated.
If you are looking to re-enter the same industry you left, you might prefer to draw influence from your latest professional title. For example, if you were a digital marketing manager and are looking for a similar role, you might describe yourself as a “digital marketing professional”.
Adjust your personal statement to address the gap
After your name, professional title, and contact details is your profile, which is effectively your elevator pitch, designed to tie together your career history, professional experience, and immediate employment goals. Your profile is a chance to address your employment break head-on and phrase it in a way that shows you're ready to re-enter the workplace.
Here are a few ways you might like to address your career break as a caregiver or as a full-time parent in your profile:
Caring for someone: Now looking to re-establish my career in XXX after taking some time out as a carer
Parental leave: Looking to pursue a part-time role in XXX after a short career break to raise children
Stay-at-home mum or dad: Currently seeking a position in XXX after refining and developing skills through a course in XXX while raising children
Housewife or husband: Now ready to resume a position in the XXX industry after taking some time out to care for family
Identify transferable skills you've used throughout your break
Transferable skills, also known as soft skills, are abilities that can be used in different types of role. As someone returning to work after caring for their family, transferable skills are crucial on your CV as they will help to make up for the lack of recent hard skills or work experience.
Common transferable skills that are always in demand include communication, teamwork, leadership, organisation, problem solving, and financial administration. There is a strong chance that you've used the majority of these skills during your career break.
Write down a list of transferable skills and identify examples of how you've drawn on them during your break, to generate a clear picture of what you have to offer. For example, you may not have used verbal communication skills in an employee capacity, but the chances are you've used them when liaising with doctors, schools, or other services. Once you've acknowledged your skills, consider which are most relevant to your prospective employer and the best way to articulate them on your CV.
Highlight other ways you used your career break
There were likely other activities you pursued during your career break, in addition to caring for your family. Unpaid work and refining skills count as valuable experience on your CV.
For example, you may have taken a course, either formally with a certificate, or perhaps tutorials via YouTube, Skillshare, or LinkedIn learning, which can be added to your CV. You may have developed a social media profile or blog as a budding influencer. Perhaps you started a side-hustle. Or you may have volunteered through PTAs, speaking engagements, or local Board meetings.
Think about the experiences that best show off your skills relevant to the jobs you're applying for and add them to your CV.
There are thousands of individual stories behind a decision to step out of full-time employment and you're not alone in feeling apprehensive as you consider returning to work. Explaining raising family, addressing caregiver skills, and listing parental leave on your CV is all possible. Simply consider the positives, identify your strengths in all experiences, and tailor your CV to the role – you'll be landing interviews in no time.
Need help explaining a career break due to family reasons on your CV? Submit your CV for a free CV review and we'll tell you where you stand.