Are you currently stuck in a job you hate? Do you want to do more fulfilling work, but just can’t find the time to figure out what that would look like? Perhaps you know the career you’d love to pursue, but you’re worried that you can’t quit your job and chase that dream how will you pay your bills?! It’s a confusing dilemma, but for anyone in this situation, a career break can provide much-needed time and space to get crystal clear on how you want your career to progress. However, if, like many people considering a career break, you’re scared to take time out because it will leave a big gap in your CV, there’s no need to be so worried. Recruiter and career advice blogger Imogen McGowan says there’s an art to explaining a career break with ease and turning it from a disadvantage to an advantage.

Is time off right for you and your career?

After school and uni, most of us seem to fall into a career. And once bills, mortgages and families come into play, taking time out to really explore your options can feel unrealistic. But if you’re currently feeling stuck in your career, with limited options for growth, a career break could be exactly what you need to work out what a fulfilling career looks and feels like to you.

However, to make sure any career break you take puts you in a strong position when you return to work, it’s important to plan things out rather than quit your job and figure things out from there. Set a date for your break and work towards saving money to support yourself during this period. You could even ease your way into things by taking some time off work as paid holiday or by negotiating a sabbatical.

Decide how to get the most out of your career break

Once you’re sure that taking time off will be a good thing for your career, the next step is deciding what to do with it. Finding the right career path can be difficult, so there’s no one-size-fits-all plan for getting the most out of a career break. Whether you use the time to travel, explore career change ideas through work experience, do some voluntary work or you just take some time to pursue your passions, it doesn’t matter, as long as you spend that time doing the things that will help you get clear about your next steps.  

A great place to start is to consider all the things you’ve always wanted to do. Take risks, try different things and don’t be afraid to consider all avenues.

For example, you could start a blog about your travels or take on an internship in an industry you have always wanted to work in.

how to explain a career break
Before leaving your job for a career break, consider what you want to achieve during that break and write down a plan

How to explain your career break in your CV

The best way to handle the gap in your CV that a career break will create is to address it up front. You want to answer any questions a recruiter may have before he or she asks them. According to REED one in four applicants bends the truth in their CV, but where a career break is concerned, telling a white lie isn’t the right way to go. Instead, showcase the benefits of your time off. Perhaps it gave you a chance to discover your ideal career path or it allowed you to develop a certain skill set. There’s always a benefit to be found if you look closely.

Present your career break in the same format as all the other jobs on your CV: describe your experiences, add the dates of the break and provide a brief summary of what you did and achieved.

How to discuss your career break in an interview

If you’ve already explained your time off in your CV, the interview will be much easier to navigate. Just as you took an open and honest approach in your CV, there’s no need to side-step the time you took off during an interview. Instead, take time to explain your career break and how it helped you to decide that the role you’re interviewing for is a good fit. Use the experience as a topic of conversation, discussing any interesting details or pinpointing any qualities you obtained during this period.

Taking time off to gain clarity about your career and future is an admirable decision, rather than something to feel guilty or embarrassed about. Treating your career break with the same pride you would a promotion, qualification or any other accolade is the secret to no longer feeling wary about explaining time taken off to future employers.


Imogen McGowan

Imogen McGowan

Imogen McGowan is a recruiter and HR expert with almost a decade of experience in the industry. She's also the founder of IM-Hired - a career advice blog that helps job seekers find their dream job and achieve the perfect work life balance.

Join our insider club

Serious about finding work you love? Sign up to get alerts about exciting new opportunities for career changers before anyone else.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.