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How to ensure career breaks are not wasted

HR experts say career breaks, whether voluntary or not, should always be viewed as temporary. All it takes is patience and consistency to get back into the groove.

November 25, 2022 / 02:53 PM IST
One should also realise that your juniors could potentially overtake your seniority and experts say one should be mindful not to be bogged down by such peer pressure. (Illustration by Suneesh Kalarickal)

One should also realise that your juniors could potentially overtake your seniority and experts say one should be mindful not to be bogged down by such peer pressure. (Illustration by Suneesh Kalarickal)

The pandemic has made today’s workforce realise the importance of breaking away from the 9 to 5 cycle and looking giving more attention to personal aspirations. But it’s not always entrepreneurship that calls to every employee looking for a life beyond a job.

As experts point out, some take voluntary career breaks just for self-exploration and to recharge.

A career break can be anywhere from two months to 24 months. And since Elon Musk is yet to develop a time machine, we must always prepare for the future.

HR experts say career breaks, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, should always be taken as a temporary phase. One must remember that it’s just patience and consistency that are required to reignite one’s career.

Never take a break from learning

Being on a career break does not mean taking a break from learning. According to Nalini George, chief people officer, Rakuten India, an e-commerce and online retailing company, sometimes the best learning comes from the places you least expect: ordinary people.

On your career break, she recommends pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and striking up conversations with people you don’t generally interact with in your daily life. “Each person has a unique story, no matter their age or background, and there is immense depth behind every façade,” she says.

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George feels that not only does meeting new people hone your relationship-building and networking capabilities, it can also help you understand diverse perspectives through meaningful social experiences.

“What distinguishes successful leaders from others is not a company product but their ability to inspire complex workforces,” she adds.

Positive affirmation of self-worth and self-esteem

Having a positive affirmation of self-worth and self-esteem is necessary even when the career break is voluntary.

It’s most important to not let the apprehensions about self-worth seep in when the break is for personal reasons. Having taken a career break herself when pregnant with her first child, Jaskiran Arora, the current dean, School of Management at BML Munjal University gets Goosebumps recalling the depression she went into.

“I can empathise very well with women taking a career break or maternity leave, and therefore strongly recommend them to constantly keep reminding themselves and reaffirming that this is just a temporary phase and in no way will be detrimental to professional growth,” she says.

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Contemplating “what-if-I-had-not-left” and comparing one’s own situation while witnessing colleagues’ professional growth can leave one drained and doubtful, she asserts. “Positive affirmations will help the individual maintain a positive mindset and attitude.”

This way, Arora says, the performance in interviews during the relaunch of the career after the break will be far better.

Never think of lying on your CV

One should also realise that your juniors could potentially overtake your seniority and experts say one should be mindful not to be bogged down by such peer pressure.

“Indians have a mentality of seniority being important and any such mentality will create mental stress and a potentially complicated work environment if one takes it to heart about seniority when rejoining,” says Sudhakar Raja, founder and CEO at TRST Score, an employee trust score platform.

This may lead to people hiding their career breaks in their resumes. However, it’s a shortsighted move that almost always backfires. Companies have ways and means to vet employee backgrounds, as was seen in the latest Accenture case where some employees were let go because of falsified work experience.

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“These candidates will have a negative score if Accenture reports to a platform like ours,” says Raja.

Hence, Raja suggests that if designations are the issue, employees should look at the possibility of not joining the same team or even the same company. “This will help you in setting aside certain stress related to seniority etc. and having to work with your juniors who might have been promoted to now become your manager.”

Never break ties with your industry 

Lizanne Dsouza, founder of Liz Lyn Careers, says that it’s always important to keep up with trends in the job market and keep your LinkedIn profile active even if you are not working.

Besides, she says, if you plan on getting back to a professional career, having a bridge to be able to do that is super important. “Keeping in touch with people from your work circle will ensure that you are not completely forgotten,” she says.

One of the aspects we tend to neglect or focus too little on as we get consumed by life is our hobbies, believes Aarfa Shaikh, associate director, people success, Bizongo, a supply chain automation platform.

“This is the time to revisit those hobbies and use them as a stress buster because the feeling of anxiety and depression are very common during such breaks,” says Shaikh.

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“If one wants to develop a healthy habit like reading or eating healthy, one can utilise one’s career break time,” says Harsh Suresh Bharwani, CEO and MD of Jetking Infotrain, while recommending to always keeping a journal and write down everything like what worked for you and what did not in your previous jobs.

“This will help a person understand his or her flaws and rectify them accordingly,” Bharwani adds.

Change the course of life

Along with developing a new skill, a candidate should also expand existing skill sets that can help the individual diversify their capabilities, create new avenues to explore, bring out their entrepreneurial side and even join in the ever-expanding gig economy, says Mahima Walia, chief of staff, Awign, an on-demand work fulfilment platform.

“Through their diversified skill set, they can also take up multiple projects and increase their income potential,” she says. Awign has observed that most of its high-skills gig partners who work on contractual projects with large enterprises have predominantly entered the gig economy to explore these avenues.

To develop effective business solutions, there is a demand across all industries for people who are proficient in new-age capabilities in fields like artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics and digital marketing, explains Arppna Mehra, HR head for HARMAN India, a Samsung-owned audio electronics company.

“Programmes by universities or several edtech platforms can help workers on a sabbatical relaunch second careers in fields that are in great demand,” she adds.

Abhishek Sahu
Abhishek Sahu covers HR and Careers at Moneycontrol.
first published: Nov 25, 2022 01:03 pm