Career Interrupted

Posted by Marilyn Hoare on August 13, 2015

The Burning Question of Scope Creep So you’ve been “declared healthy and sent back into the world” (Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted).

Career interruptions have taken place since the proverbial dawn of time. However, as more women have joined the workforce over the last several decades, the number of career interruptions have increased. That is not to say women are the only ones to experience an interruption, it’s just that one of the more common interruptions is due to the birth of a child. Essentially, a career interruption is any break, pause, or disruption to your current career path. Another common interruption occurs when someone is laid off or terminated for some reason. As our population ages, many employees are finding themselves faced with caring for an aging parent. Needless to say, the reason for the career interruption could be any number of things.

As you consider re-entering the workforce it is important to remember that a career interruption is not bizarre or unusual. In fact, with recent economic fluctuations, many jobs were lost and people are still trying to find new employment as the economy recovers. Regardless of the reason for your career interruption, be direct when explaining it to a potential employer. If the gap occurred a few years ago, it may not even be a matter of concern, but if it was recent, give simple explanation in your cover letter. There is no need to go into great detail; just give a very simple statement. The Ladders suggests, “don’t apologize for taking time off; speak with confidence about the reasons why you took time off and why you are seeking to work now.”

Rather than focusing on any gap in your resume, instead focus on finding a job that fits you well. Encourage potential employers to focus on your track record, overall potential, and how well you can do the job now. Be prepared to explain how you can add value to the organization and how well qualified you are as being a strong candidate is much more than satisfactorily explaining any career interruptions. Concentrate on how you can distinguish yourself from other candidates and be sure you are applying for positions in which you meet or exceed the required qualifications.

“The world didn’t stop because we weren’t in it anymore” (Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted).

Whether you are applying for a job in the technology sector or not, you must still be prepared to demonstrate that you are knowledgeable on current technology and that you’re comfortable in learning new technologies. The Ladders suggests that simply having professional presence online can help: such as a personal web page, a blog, published articles, or a professional networking site. It can also be helpful to talk about relevant trends in technology to demonstrate you are up to date.

career interruptions

As you prepare to resume your career, Susan Adams provides a list of “7 Keys to Rejoining the Workforce after a Long Break” in her Forbes article on leadership that you may find are worth considering.

  1. Analyze your decision. Basically you need to assess your decision to return to work. Is this really the right time for you? Do you want to consider a position that offers you the opportunity to telecommute or work part-time rather than full-time? Perhaps a position with flex time would work better for you? 
  2. Bolster your self-confidence. Practice your pitch and your interviewing skills on friends and family. Focus on your talents and what made you successful in the past. “I told her once I wasn’t good at anything. She told me survival is a talent” (Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted).
  3. Assess your career options. What do you really want to do? You may want to consider going back to what you were successful with in the past as your strategy to re-enter the workforce. However, if you left because you hated what you were doing, consider what else you can be successful with that you can market well. “If I could have any job in the world I’d be a professional Cinderella” (Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted).
  4. Update your skills. Again, be sure you can demonstrate that you have remained up to date on current trends and of you have not, consider user groups or training that you can take part in to come up to speed.
  5. Network with enthusiasm. “Whatever we call it – mind, character, soul – we like to think we possess something that is greater than the sum of our neurons and that animates us” (Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted).
  6. Ask for support from your family. Include your friends and family in your support system. Include your children in your decision to return to the job market and tell them early on so they can prepare themselves as well.
  7. Love the job you get, or find another one.

At the end of the day, keep in mind that all of the skills and qualities that made you successful in the past have not disappeared during your career interruption. You still have your same work ethic and attitude you possessed before. Everything you had to offer your previous employer are still valuable to any prospective employer.

“As for finders – well, we had to be our own finders” (Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted).

Inspired and use of material from Girl Interrupted: Wick, Douglas, Cathy Konrad, James Mangold, Lisa Loomer, Anna H. Phelan, Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, and Susanna Kaysen. Girl, Interrupted. Burbank, CA: Columbia Tristar Home Video, 2000.