Reskill before you restart your career
Chandler Bing did it. He did what I always wanted to do – quit a boring job to pursue his dream. The F.R.I.E.N.D.S character quit his high-paying but a mind-numbingly boring job in data analytics to start at the bottom as an intern in an advertising firm because that is where his heart was. I too quit a teaching career – something I had entered because of family pressure – to follow my dream of becoming a reporter. But then, came other aspirations.
Taking a break is as much a norm as having a career itself. Three years ago, my friend, Shruti, decided to step back from work. She had become a mom and wanted time off. Some time ago, when she started job-hunting again, she was unable to convince recruiters about her professionalism because of the career gap. But she did not let that deter her. She joined a distance learning programme and added a Master’s degree to her resume which helped her to change track and enter a different field.
I took a leaf out of her book when I took a break from hard news reporting, it was difficult for me to return to the demanding 24×7 news cycle. So I decided to take up freelance content writing jobs and working from home. At the end of my sabbatical from a ‘regular job’, I had edited two books, helped fund-raise and organise a charity car rally, done corporate media-training workshops – basically added a variety of experiences to my portfolio.
This seems to be a universal problem. A UK based organisation ‘Workingmums.co.uk’ surveyed 2300 mothers (who had taken a break) to find out that half of them could not find a position in their field of work. Furthermore, a fifth of these women had to settle for a much lesser position. There is a general tendency to question skillsets after career gaps (whether due to maternity, health, change of interests, change of place or even a break from the monotony!) and it’s hard getting back. But, if you are willing and ready, it’s do-able. Here are some possible scenarios and what you need to keep in mind.
You want to join the same industry you were working in before:
While you already have the expertise needed here, you may have to go the extra yard to prove that you still belong.
Take stock of your skillset. Make a list of all the duties you were responsible for previously and tally with available job descriptions. This will give you a fair idea of what employees are expecting.
Rekindle with your industry. Check up on all the industry news, sign up for newsletters about the topics you are interested in.
Update your CV. Interpret your career break in a positive light, and don’t forget to mention all the activities you took up during the gap.
You want to explore a new career path:
My friend Shruti opted for this. While her career as a Marketing Manager was rewarding enough, she reskilled herself and joined as a Content Manager in a PR firm. If you wish to explore a different avenue, here are a few things you can try:
Training programs in the field of work you choose. It also looks good on your CV.
Try your hand at freelancing, before joining a company. Even a little bit of experience may help you understand the demands of the role. Plus, it’s good money.
Research. It’s a new field altogether, so you need to prepare for it as much as possible. Attend conferences, even beyond just online platforms. These events will help you build a network as well.
Be prepared to answer questions about your gap year or change in career paths. Be honest but avoid negative answers. Start your sentences with ‘I want(ed) to explore/I feel I am better at/My true inclinations lie in’ and so on.
Keep a back-up plan handy. Just in case.
Figure out a financial plan till you get a job:
If you’ve been on a break – whether for 6 months or 6 years – there will be a dip in your savings. Plan ahead and prepare for the worst.
Start investing early into your break. This will help you with a source of profit when you need it most.
Save more than you are expecting to spend. When you’re on a break, you need to start being a little stingy.
Keep working – take up part-time jobs or freelancing projects. Try going the digital route.
If you are a new mother, prepare for childcare much in advance, so you can be comfortable leaving your toddler in good hands.
Negotiate your way back:
If your new job is great, but offering you a lot less than you expected, Don’t ‘Settle’!
Yes, everything from – ‘what’s at stake?’, ‘what is available?’, ‘how much is the commute?’ and ‘any job is better than no job’ – are the things that will cross your mind when negotiating your salary. But know this, negotiating is always the correct thing to try.
Research is your friend. You should know exactly how much the current market for your role is. Try browsing through job searching websites and check out their salary expectations.
Reach out to peers and mentors in the industry who are currently working and have a finger on the pulse when it comes to jobs.
Have a negotiation that will leave both parties with a feeling of win-win. Speak on how you can bring value to the position and build a case, rather than simply quoting a number.
So go ahead, FULFILL your dreams and live!