Make the most of your career break

career break

Study leave, a holiday break…there are numerous reasons why you might find yourself on a career break.

It’s not uncommon to feel anxious, stressed or lacking in confidence about returning to work, particularly after a long career break. Whether you’re job-hunting, starting a new position or returning to your previous workplace, it can be a nerve-wracking experience. Read on for how you can make the re-adjustment process easier.


Emphasise the skills you’ve learned

It’s a well-known saying that travel broadens the mind, and it’s a great idea to highlight any international experiences on your resume. This could include conferences, volunteering programs or language courses. Immersing yourself in different cultures overseas boosts your interpersonal skills and makes you a more open-minded person, so it’s no wonder that employers consistently rate international experience as an attractive quality in candidates.

Even if you didn’t take part in any programs, it doesn’t hurt to list travel as one of your personal interests on your resume, or to bring it up in an interview. You may like to highlight how travelling boosted your independence and made you more confident in unfamiliar situations. It doesn’t even have to be an overseas trip – putting yourself in any unfamiliar environment shows that you’re an adaptable person.


Holiday takeaways

Ever heard of a stress-free holiday? They’re pretty rare. If you took a holiday, it probably involved some degree of research or planning, such as developing an itinerary and budgeting. Consider how you can apply the organisational and time management in your new role: maybe you used travel apps which would work well for any upcoming businesses. Budgeting apps could also help keep track of any work-related expenditure.

Even those “trip from hell” experiences could be become useful anecdotes if you’re asked about how you handled a stressful situation in a job interview. You could recount how having to cope with a tricky situation made you more patient and built up your problem-solving skills.



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Personal growth

It’s not only travel that develops your interpersonal skills. Engaging with the local community during your career break by taking part in sporting events or charity endeavours also displays leadership, communication and teamwork skills, which translate to any workplace!

If you used your break to gain qualifications (whether directly related to your role or not), your academic sabbatical shows that you’re dedicated to skills growth and realising personal goals. Deborah Rathjen, CEO and Managing Director of drug discovery and development company Bionomic Ltd says that when employees take career breaks, their periods of personal growth often benefit their organisation.

“One of the best pieces of advice I had was to take time for ‘thinking’,” says Rathjen. She believes that career breaks are a great way to boost productivity when back at work. “It’s about freeing up your mind to look at the big picture.”


Reach out to networks

Reach out to your colleagues some time before you return – they can get you up to speed on any new projects that are coming up, as well as any organisational structures in the company, so that it’s less of a surprise for you. If you haven’t connected with your former mentors in a while, now is the time to reach out to them – they probably have some advice to share after taking career breaks of their own.

You might also want to build new connections through local, technical or professional networks, such as Engineers Australia, Inspiring Australia or the Australian Computer Society. By connecting with people in your field, you’ll feel more in the loop in no time.

Some employers offer specialised programs to assist with the return to work after a career break. For instance, the EY Reconnect Program is for female career returners re-entering the workplace after an extended break, and includes a 12-week induction, coaching and mentoring program.


Returning to STEM programs

The Stamina: Women returning to work program is an initiative which is part of the veski inspiring women program, supported by the Office of the Lead Scientist Victoria. The 8-month program offers workshop and networking opportunities to empower women at different career stages. If you’ve previously worked in STEM and are looking to return to work in a STEM-related field (academia, industry or government)  in Australia in 2019, check back in on the application page early next year.

career break

“One of the best pieces of advice I had was to take time for ‘thinking’”.

CEO of drug discovery company Bionomic Ltd Dorothy Rathjen.
Larissa Fedunik-Hofman

Author: Larissa Fedunik-Hofman

Larissa is the editorial assistant for Careers with STEM and a Chemistry PhD student. Larissa’s goal is to promote public engagement with STEM through inspiring stories.


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