In March 2022, LinkedIn introduced a new Career Break feature that lets users present employment gaps in their work history with confidence. The new feature is being praised by many as a progressive step towards removing ‘career break penalty’ – the systemic bias against those who want to return to the workforce after an extended break.
According to Jennifer Shappley, VP Global Talent Acquisition at LinkedIn, the feature was introduced after users including ‘68% of women…wanted more ways to positively represent their career breaks by highlighting skills learned and experiences they had during a work pause.’
It aims to normalise time taken off for caring duties, bereavement, a gap year and remove the stigma of having ‘employment-free’ periods in your CV.
Shappley further confirms that for talent professionals, the Career Break sections will show how the new and transferrable skills picked up by ‘career leavers’ can match the skills they’re looking for in their roles. These new highlighted sections will come up when talent managers search for candidates in Recruiter.
In this blog, we’ll look at:
- What is a career break
- Career break reasons
- How does the LinkedIn Career Break feature work?
- How to best use LinkedIn if you’re a Returner
- How FDM can help you return to work
What is a career break?
A career break is an indefinite leave away from ‘paid employment’ that can typically range from 12 months to 20 years and more. There are several reasons people take career breaks as we’ll discuss in the next section. But the COVID-19 pandemic has had a critical impact on employment levels around the world with women being the hardest hit in the pandemic job market, as confirmed by the International Labour Organisation.
This is corroborated by a report by Reuters, that mentions – 4.2% of women’s jobs were eliminated as a result of the Pandemic between 2019 and 2020 – accounting for a massive 54 million jobs. While some were forced to leave their jobs, others made a choice to leave to take on other life duties.
A LinkedIn survey of over 7000 hiring managers found that recruiters are hesitant to employ people with career breaks and one in five hiring managers reject such candidates. This underscores the bias that most returners face going back to work and highlights the need to remove the stigma around career breaks.
Career break reasons
There are various reasons people take career breaks. A LinkedIn survey of 23,000 workers found that nearly 62% of employees have taken a break at some point in their careers, whilst another 35%, comprising mostly women employees would like to take a career break in future.
The most common reasons for taking career breaks are bringing up children and fulfilling other caring responsibilities. However, as witnessed during the Great Resignation, more and more people have been leaving the workforce to focus on their well being and finding a better work-life balance. According to the LinkedIn survey, 56% of employees who took a career break said they acquired new skills, or improved existing ones, whilst 54% of women said they were better at their job than they were before.
How does the LinkedIn Career Break feature work?
LinkedIn users can use the Career Break feature to describe their time away from paid employment as one of the following 13 reasons:
- Career transition
- Full-time parenting
- Gap year
- Layoff/position eliminated
- Health and well-being
- Personal goal pursuit
- Professional development
- Voluntary work
If you’re looking for ways to explain employment gaps in your CV, the Description section under ‘career break’ offers 2000 characters to mention additional details about the duration of the break and any skills or experiences that you picked up during it.
LinkedIn’s survey also found that 46% of employers view candidates with career breaks as an untapped talent pool and 51% of employers would likely call back a candidate if they knew the context of why they took a break.
To add a career break to your profile, simply click the Add Profile tab on your profile and from the drop-down under Core select Career Break.
How to best use LinkedIn
Social media platforms are some of the best places for networking if you’re looking for a job. LinkedIn with over 722 million users is the first port of call if you’re trying to find jobs on social media. If you’re a returner looking to get back in the game, it’s worthwhile to spend some time tweaking and perfecting the best LinkedIn profile.
Have a professional profile picture
Your photo is the first thing people see when they click on your profile. Since LinkedIn is a professional networking platform, make sure you have an appropriate profile picture. This also means dressing the part. Remember your future employer could be looking at your profile so the rule of thumb is to dress and present yourself the way you would for an interview or formal event.
Include a summary
LinkedIn recommends adding a summary to your profile. It mentions that ‘members who include a summary receive up to 3.9 times as many profile views’. You can get creative with your summary and show a bit of your personality.
Ask for recommendations
Don’t be afraid to ask old contacts and colleagues for a recommendation or endorsements. Recommendations are like testimonials, typically provided by line-managers and other professional contacts and work like votes of confidence. Endorsements on the other hand verify any skills that you may have listed on your profile. Both work as validation for your experience and boost your credibility.
Grow your network
Once your profile is set up, it’s time to start networking and making the most of the platform. This means reaching out to all your old contacts as well as making new connections. Remember the more people you connect with, the more chances you have of coming up in searches. As your network grows, more people will start connecting with your directly.
Use LinkedIn Jobs
This is a great tool to use if you’re looking for a job. You can use LinkedIn Jobs to search for jobs by sector, role, company, and more. You can set up alerts and receive regular notifications about relevant vacancies. If there’s a specific company you’re interested in, you can set up alerts to be notified whenever they post a new role. LinkedIn Jobs also provides anonymity so your searches aren’t visible to public.
Join LinkedIn Groups
There are industry and location-specific groups in LinkedIn that you can join to connect with other professionals who may be valuable contacts to have. For example – if you’ve joined a group for digital marketing professionals in London, and find a Content Marketing Manager in the group, you could reach out to them for advice or any leads about new openings. LinkedIn Groups let you send messages to other group members for free so don’t hesitate to reach out to multiple connections. You never know who might lead you to your next great break!
Post and engage with content
It’s important to stay visible on LinkedIn by regularly posting content and engaging with other posts. Sharing interesting content or even better writing an original article or blog post raises your profile and your credibility.
Are you considering a return to work after taking time off? Here are some helpful resources:
- Childcare options to consider as you plan a return to work
- Top business networking tips for Returners
- What is upskilling and reskilling
- How to face the return to the office
How FDM can help you return to work
We at FDM recognise the exclusive value that returners bring to businesses. And so, we aim to match their unique skills and experiences to existing talent gaps in the market. Our Returner’s Programme hopes to address career break penalty and facilitate the return and reintegration of career leavers into the workforce.
- 75% of FDM’s Returners identify as women
- There are 161 currently on the Returner’s Programme
- Our consultants have had career breaks ranging between 1 and 20 years with the average break being 5 years
The FDM Returners Programme supports professionals who have had a career break on their journey back to work, with training and placements with our industry-leading clients.