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Career breaks: friend or foe?

64 per cent of women and 49 per cent of men have taken a career break at least once during their working life, but most say it was a challenge to re-enter the workforce afterwards, according to a survey by recruiting experts Hays.

The recruiter surveyed over 1,000 people across Australia and New Zealand and found that the reasons for career breaks differ between women and men. For women, the primary reason for their break was to have children (41 per cent). This was followed by travel (14 per cent). For men, it was to travel (25 per cent) or to study or retrain (21 per cent).

Following their career break, both men and women (66 per cent and 69 per cent respectively) encountered some challenges re-entering the workforce. One of the biggest was how to answer job interview questions about the relevancy of their skills following time out of the workforce. Comments from survey respondents included:

• “I had to explain the gap in my resume, and I felt it made me look less employable as I wasn't already employed.”

• “Following my travels there was little acknowledgement of my past experience. I was perceived as out of date for equivalent roles and unable to get past selection criteria that asked for current experience. And I was told I was overqualified for lesser roles due to the assumption I will get bored.”

• “It’s been difficult to get a meaningful role after a career gap of 2 years to have children.”



• “I was made redundant on parental leave and found it challenging to re-enter the workforce at pay parity to my previous role and level.”

• “I took a significant pay cut, and now operate in a role that is junior to my qualifications and experience.”

According to Hays, this highlights an often overlooked barrier people face when attempting to re-enter the workforce following a career break. “Employers prefer people with recent experience,” says Adam Shapley, Managing Director of Hays in New Zealand. “Many prefer people with continuity in their work history and view anyone who has been out of the workforce, whether that’s for 12 months or five years, as out-of-date."

“To overcome this, jobseekers should show that they kept their skills and knowledge up to date and drove their learning agenda while on their extended break. On your CV and online profile list seminars and events you attended. Highlight the new knowledge you’ve acquired in a ‘professional profile’ at the top of your CV. Post about a course you completed or learning event you attended on your professional social media. You could even write about how your learning has shaped your thinking or approach to your role.”

For more, see the FY 2018-19 Hays Diversity & Inclusion Report at www.hays.net.nz/diversity-inclusion

Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.


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