A new way to explain the break in your career


In 2021 LinkedIn added “Stay at home parent” as the job title. In 2022, a ‘Career Break’ label will be added that allows people to indicate periods when they leave the paid workforce for travel, volunteer work, informal care or just leisure. The new category option helps job seekers better represent their experiences and also allows recruiters to better identify and target candidates for return to work programs.

LinkedIn recently introduced a new category – Career Breaks – for users who build profiles. The new label helps normalize the idea that careers aren’t always linear — and will massively boost the hiring efforts of employers conducting career re-entry programs or otherwise targeting the pool of professionals returning from career breaks.

In the Career Break category, individuals who have taken time off from the traditional workforce can not only list their career breaks on their LinkedIn profiles, but also describe the highlights of their career break experiences — including travel, family responsibilities, or volunteering — simply as traditional work experience.

Employers are launching career re-entry programs at unprecedented speeds. Recruiters recognize that people who have temporarily left the workforce are a “hidden” talent pool – and that in most cases their decision to take a break from paid work has nothing to do with job performance. Recruiters expanded their targeting of these candidates during the pandemic: LinkedIn’s own data shows that the proportion of U.S. job openings listing career breaks has increased 63% from 2020 and nearly 100% from 2018.

For job seekers, the LinkedIn Career Break designation solves the problem of labeling or classifying a time period when they were not in the paid workforce. It also solves a growing problem for employers trying to recruit relaunch professionals. That’s because most formal career re-entry programs require candidates to have a minimum of one to two years of career break to qualify. However, many job seekers justify their free time by listing volunteer work or other activities. If they are mistaken for the current job, these candidates may be considered unsuitable.

Take the case of Simone, a software engineer. She has a master’s degree in computer science and seven years’ experience in database development, and she was most recently in paid employment in 2015. Simone is a perfect candidate for a re-entry program, but when she applied to a renowned corporate career re-entry program, she was offered a an automatic rejection.

Stunned by the immediate rejection, Simone contacted our team at iRelaunch. When we saw her clear qualifications, we also wanted to understand what was happening. We have contacted the employer, a regular partner of ours. They looked more closely at Simone’s excellent technical credentials, her efforts to stay on top of the technology and her long career break, and she finally got an offer. If Simone hadn’t pulled out, she wouldn’t have been hired and the employer would have missed out on an excellent candidate.

Why was she rejected? For the period since 2015, Simone’s resume showed volunteer work and recent technical courses, but did not clearly state that she had taken a career break. Newer recruiters on the employer team who were not fully trained to recognize the career break resumes missed Simone’s eligibility.

Between electronic screening and recruiters less familiar with resume profiles and resumes, it’s not uncommon for recent volunteer experiences and courses to be mistaken for current work experience, rather than a valid career break. There’s an irony here: By taking steps to camouflage their career breaks on resumes, job seekers inadvertently set themselves up for rejection by employers’ career re-entry programs because their career breaks aren’t obvious enough.

Now LinkedIn has given relaunchers the perfect mechanism to call the career break on their LinkedIn profiles and employers the means to avoid missing another Simone.

From a hiring perspective, the new Career Break offers employers an added benefit: If relaunchers start using the Career Break category in the experience section of their LinkedIn profiles, employers can conduct a keyword search for “Career Break” to identify eligible candidates for their career re-entry programs.

Choosing the “Career Break” category may even make sense for people who have gone through a period of part-time work or unemployment. In fact, most employers who conduct career re-entry programs encourage relaunchers to loosely define the career break. The career break eligibility definition can allow for a number of income-generating activities, such as occasional counseling, substitute teaching, or a side job unrelated to the primary career. We encourage individuals to make the mistake of enrolling in a program rather than opting for one themselves, fearing that their revenue-generating activity may not qualify them. With the Career Break category, lead the Experience section at the top and list the income-generating activity as part of that section or as a separate item below it.

LinkedIn’s move is the latest in its evolving approach to helping people document non-linear careers. In March 2021, as a precursor to the new Career Break category, LinkedIn announced that the stay-at-home mom, dad, and parental leave designations had been added to the pre-populated drop-down menus for profile building.

I recently interviewed Bef Ayenew, the technical leader behind the LinkedIn profile page. He explained that the new Career Breaks category is much more intuitive than the previously announced “Stay at home with parents” designation. “Career Break” is an optional entry in the experience section and includes built-in options that indicate the type of career break – examples include family care, extended travel, and retirement. Similar to job posting with an employer, the Career Break category provides an opportunity to highlight activities during the career break that are relevant to career goals or significant stand-alone experiences.

While the Career Break category is a step forward, some relaunchers may be wary of using it. As common as career breaks have become – especially during Covid – there are still plenty of managers who are biased or find it risky to hire someone who has left the workforce. LinkedIn statistics confirm this: “While half (50%) of hiring managers worldwide say career breaks are becoming more common, nearly 60% (59%) of people believe there is still a stigma associated with career breaks.”

By our count, nearly 40% of the Fortune 50 have an internal career re-entry program. As the number of employer re-entry programs continues to grow, and as existing programs scale and last longer, there will be more relaunchings within organizations — people who are more likely to hire someone else who has taken a career break.

LinkedIn has been helping restarters rebuild their networks for years by making it easy to find and connect with long-lost colleagues from the past. And with 800 million members, LinkedIn plays a powerful role as a referee in career path profiling. LinkedIn’s decision to make “Career Break” an official category in the LinkedIn Profile Experience section validates the career break as a standard part of career paths for those who choose to take one – and recognizes the value of the career break itself. This marks a major leap in the gradual progress we have seen in the nearly 20 years since the concept of return programs first took hold.

This post A new way to explain the break in your career was original published at “https://hbr.org/2022/03/a-new-way-to-explain-the-pause-in-your-career”


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