How to Return to Work After a Career Break? Simple Steps You Should Follow

In the words of W.H. Davies, “What is a life full of care, we have no time to stop and stare?” Engrossed in the rat’s race of pursuing one goal after the other, this is a story most of us are familiar with. In fact, for the time we can remember, we are used to being chased. Chased by the flurry of school homework, chased by college assignments, chased by the urge to engage in resume-building activities, chased by job applications, chased by project deadlines, and it goes on.

Almost a vicious cycle to survive, and in the bid, we often forget to live. Sometimes, it might be worthwhile to consciously stop and stare. For many of us who are grappling with busy job profiles and demanding family lives, a sense of fatigue becomes overwhelming very often. This often leads to choosing one over the other and on most occasions, it is our careers that need to be guillotined.

But this need not be an irreversible change after all. Industry experts often advise and also encourage professionals go for a break at some point in their careers to avoid complete burnout. Sometimes, the choice of a career break is not voluntary but induced by the circumstances. In India, gender plays an important factor when it comes to career breaks. 36 per cent of working women take a career break due to marriage or motherhood and 72 per cent of those struggle to make a comeback.

When we imagine a career break as a kink in our professional trajectory, willy-nilly opting for it might seem counterintuitive. But to come to think of it, it might be a good time to reinvent ourselves, refuel our energies and often discover new opportunities to not break the monotony and upgrade ourselves.

All we require is a bit of planning and the grit to stick to it and, most importantly let the break remain a break and not develop into an end. Often the question asked is how to return to work after a career break. Before we get to that, let’s ask ourselves why should we take a career break.

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Reasons for taking career breaks

1. Conscious Choice

Although not a very popular concept in India, sabbaticals and career breaks a widely accepted practices in the rest of the world, especially the global North. Professionals consciously withdraw themselves temporarily from work for self-development or to spend time with their families, or simply to reinvent their own personal goals. This is a healthy practice as it often helps one to get back in touch with their creative selves, and in many cases, some of the most pioneering ideas have come out of reflections during sabbaticals.

Many even choose to pursue their passion projects over the course of their career breaks and, as a result, give their careers a whole new dimension. As they say, when you do what you love for a living, every day is a Sunday. So if you think you’re caught in the wrong job, take a career break and resurface in a whole new avatar. 

Some people take a career break in order to get out of the monotonous life and reinvent themselves. Sabbatical serves as a well-deserved rest for them. During the time of the break, they pick up the hobbies they left or always wanted to do but never found the time to do so.

Different people have different reasons for going on a sabbatical. Some of them want to pursue higher education, some want rest time and get a cure for their health issues, or some want to spend time with their family or friends. The reasons differ according to the situation.

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2. Circumstantial Choices

Some career breaks are not voluntary but are dictated by the prevailing circumstances. These may be for reasons of health, family obligations, relocations or even natural causes. On some unfortunate occasions, it may also be an unforeseen termination. Here again, the same principle applies. You may not have chosen to take a break but there’s no harm in making the most of this break. It may be a good time to reflect on how to return to work after a career break and work out strategies for the comeback, adapting to the changed situations. 

Apart from overcoming the situation, one takes a break; other developments go along, such as rejoining the workforce and bringing oneself up to speed. Most of the time, professionals make a choice for enrolling themselves in courses to restart career.

These courses could help the professionals to develop a value for themselves when they rejoin the same job. Or if their choices changed during the time of sabbatical and they want to change their industry, then the upskilling courses help them to get better job opportunities.

3. Women who take a career break

Globally, the proportion of women taking a career break is higher than their male colleagues. This is more relevant to countries like India where maternity leave and the accrued benefits are not very structured and accessible.

Reasons for marriage and motherhood are the most common reasons why women quit their careers, either temporarily or in some cases forever. Often women feel a lack of confidence to return to their workplace due to the prevalent biases and lack of growth prospects.

But one way of making a meaningful resurgence is to rebuild your skills or even acquire different skill sets to make your presence felt even if you return after a hiatus because in this day and age, treat motherhood or marriage as a terminal point for a career is an immense loss of potential as well as a loss to the global economy. 

In our society, women find themselves in a position where they take a step back in their careers either temporarily or permanently due to various reasons. Most women take care breaks due to child care, taking care of some family member, marriage or any other reason. 

This break is not easy for women, either taken voluntarily or involuntarily. While rejoining the workforce, they must deal with the pressure of being updated with the norms and performing. 

To cope with the pressure, women smartly invest their time in learning new skills that could help them scale their careers. Various courses after career break are also pursued if the women do not have time to upskill during their breaks.

Also read: Jobs & careers with the prospect for the future

How to return to work after a career break?

Whether you choose to return to the same job after taking a break or embark on a new venture, the crux of the whole exercise is upgrading one’s skills and capabilities. In order to optimally utilize and actually benefit from a career break, upskilling is an important requirement.

There are various reasons behind the benefit of upskilling after a career break; one of the most important reasons is the self-confidence it brings to a person. When one rejoins the workforce, there are already tumultuous emotions and thoughts going on. The relevant upskilling course allows one to not only become confident but also helps in a successful career transition. When someone has indulged in job oriented courses after career break, their morale becomes up and high.

According to the Future of Jobs Report 2018, released by the World Economic Forum, it is estimated that by 2022, almost 54% of the global workforce will have to mandatorily re-skill or upskill in order to keep at pace with the changing trends of the global markets and rapid technological overhaul.

Concomitant to gaining industrial experience while at your job, it is pivotal to build your skills to adapt to the changing demands of the profession. Be it in terms of cognitive abilities or tools for better marketing strategies, technological know-how and many more. Upskilling essentially looks at training oneself in certain related disciplines, which is likely to add incremental value to one’s roles. This not only helps you to keep yourself relevant to the team and the role but also enhances your productivity. 

In today’s cloud computing-dominated market, upskilling oneself with one or the other related arenas can actually pave a profitable path to return for you. A certificate course in, say Machine Learning or Data Science can make you digitally savvy and instead of you having to keep up with the course of things while you were away, the tables would be turned in your favour. You can resume work with not just renewed vigour but also innovation and fresh ideas.

This can extensively pivot your career to different heights and actually make your career break a stepping stone for the next stage of your career. Similarly, a course in data science has emerged as a common favourite upskilling subject among many mid-career professionals who are looking to reinvent themselves in order to make a comeback post a career break. 

This is not just relevant to tech fields. Even in academia, a career break does not imply that you will have to sever ties with your subject. Academia is an ever-evolving field with new research and new perspectives informing the subject constantly. Career breaks can be utilized to dig deeper into your subject matter and explore newer and more pertinent ways of knowledge dissemination. 

The best part about considering a career break in contemporary times is that it is easily available and there is a wide range of courses and upskilling opportunities online. A whole galaxy of new knowledge awaits you just a mouse click away. upGrad is one such platform which offers a whole host of professional courses with industry insights which you stand to gain a lot from. So next time you find yourself caught in the dilemma of how to return to work after a career break, focus all your attention on upskilling and prepare for your second innings unfazed.

Read more: 8 Habits You Should Develop to Get Promoted at Work

1. Maintaining Professional Development During the Career Break A career break can offer a much-needed break from the demands of the professional world, but it’s essential to make the most of this time to ensure a smooth transition back into the workforce. One crucial aspect of a career break is to focus on maintaining professional development. While it may be tempting to disconnect entirely during this period, staying updated with industry trends and advancements is a strategic move that can boost your career prospects upon your return.

  • Importance of Staying Updated: Industries are continually evolving, and new trends and technologies emerge rapidly. By remaining current, you may prevent feeling out of touch while also ensuring that your skills and expertise remain relevant. Candidates that demonstrate a dedication to continual learning and development are highly valued by employers, giving them a substantial edge in a competitive employment market.
  • Webinars, Online Courses, and Workshops: Because of the internet, there is an abundance of online resources that allow you to learn from the comfort of your own home. Enrolling in online classes, attending webinars, and participating in virtual seminars are all wonderful methods to expand your skill set while on leave. Many famous colleges and educational platforms offer courses ranging from technical skills to soft skills such as communication and leadership.

It is critical to be selective when selecting courses and materials that correspond with your professional goals. Concentrate on learning abilities that are in high demand and will be useful in your target sector.  Additionally, networking opportunities provided by online courses can help you stay connected with professionals in your field and potentially open doors to new opportunities.

2. Overcoming Confidence Challenges

Returning to work after a career sabbatical may be both thrilling and terrifying. Many people may be dealing with emotions of self-doubt and a lack of confidence in their talents. Addressing these issues front on is critical for smoothing the transition and ensuring your career success.

  • ​Addressing Self-Doubt: It’s natural to have concerns about one’s talents and credentials after taking a break from work. It is crucial to remember, however, that taking a professional break does not diminish your abilities or achievements. Consider your previous successes and the valuable experiences you’ve gained over your career. Seeking advice from friends, family, or professional counsellors may also provide a fresh perspective and help you put your self-doubt in context.
  • Techniques for Rebuilding Self-Confidence: Regaining confidence is a gradual process, and there are various techniques you may use to do it. Set attainable objectives for yourself and rejoice in each tiny accomplishment along the road. During your professional hiatus, consider doing freelance or volunteer work in your sector to keep your skills sharp and enhance your confidence. Positive self-talk and concentrating on your strengths may also have a big influence on your thinking.

Furthermore, networking may be a tremendous confidence booster. Attend industry events, network with professionals, and join online and offline networking organisations. Surrounding yourself with friendly and encouraging people might help you get crucial insights and encouragement when you return to work.

Wrapping up

If you are thinking of upgrading your career with an MBA from a top institute, upGrad is offering the MBA from Golden Gate University.

And the cherry on top – upGrad’s excellent flexible and interactive learning and evaluation systems allow you to balance your personal and professional life in a hassle-free manner. Check out for more information & let our student counsellor help you with your questions.

How do you explain a career break?

A career break could be taken for various reasons such as higher education, medical reasons, family reasons, maternity, etc.

How do I start a career after 3 years gap?

To start a career after 3 years gap, one needs to understand if they wish to continue in the same industry or if they want to change the industries. The reasons could be any, but one must upskill before one rejoin work. Not only would it bring confidence, but it also would help get better job opportunities.

What should I do during career break?

Apart from handling the situation, one has taken a career break; one must invest their time in exploring their interests. Moreover, some time should be set aside for upskilling; this is the best opportunity to grow personally and professionally.

How do I talk about career break on my CV?

Mentioning a career break appropriately on the CV is very important. Before mentioning anything, you need to be clear that being honest is the best way to begin. Summarise the career break along with tits objective and why you chose to take one.

What are best short courses?

The best short courses are depended upon the type of industry one is in. Some of the best short courses are mentioned below. 1) Digital Marketing 2) Data Science 3) Data Analytics 4) Blockchain 5) Machine learning 6) Finance

Which skill course is best?

Data is the core of any organisation today. The upskilling course in data science is considered the best short course. The reason is very apparent because its applicability is in every field. This would allow for procuring better job opportunities.

How do you explain a career break in a job interview?

It is very important to know that while answering this question, you need to be honest. Also, what you have mentioned as the reason for your career break in your CV and what you say must align. You can begin by sharing why did you take the career break, followed by how you utilize the time and conclude with how you are ready to make an impact by utilizing the skillsets you gained during that time.

What should you do while you are on a career break?

A career break is a perfect opportunity to reconnect with friends, family, and most importantly, yourself. Take up a creative pursuit (like art, literature, or music) or a forgotten hobby. Try reading more or traveling to new places. Also, think carefully about the reasons that drove you to take that break, and decide whether you want to reform your work ethic, switch employers, improve your skill set, or change your occupation altogether. You can use your free time productively by taking up online certifications/courses for cutting-edge, up-and-coming technologies. There are several such courses available on the upGrad platform.

What are the benefits of taking a career break?

In the highly competitive society we live in, it is easy to get overwhelmed by pressure to constantly achieve more than the competition. Sometimes, we lose perspective and forget what truly matters. In fact, we neglect to live the life we work so hard for. That’s where a career break can help. It lets you take a step back and reassess your position in life. It gives you the breathing space you need to ask yourself what makes you happy, and where you really want to be in your career. A break can also help you strengthen relationships outside your suffocating workplace environment and boost your mental health.

How can you streamline your return to work after your break?

Returning to the workplace after a break may seem daunting, but you can streamline the transition by following a few simple pieces of advice. Firstly, have a vision – get your priorities in order and decide which values mean the most to you. Secondly, make a note of the things you regret/think you could have done better from your past work and avoid repeating them. Thirdly, identify your strengths, and locate the sweet spot that is the intersection between your strengths and your interests. Lastly, explain the duration and purpose of your break clearly to potential employers and highlight the things you learned and achieved during it.

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