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, since 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 in 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 that professionals go for the 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 percent of working women take a career break due to marriage or motherhood and 72 percent 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?
Reasons for taking career breaks
1. Conscious Choice
Although not a very popular concept in India, sabbaticals and career breaks are a widely accepted practice 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 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.
2. Circumstantial Choices
Some career breaks are not voluntary but are dictated upon 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.
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 the 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, to 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.
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.
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 favor. You can resume work with not just renewed vigor 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 favorite upskilling subject among many mid-career professionals who are looking towards reinventing 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 easily available and 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.
If you are thinking of upgrading your career with an MBA from a top institute, upGrad is offering the MBA(Executive) program in collaboration with the NMIMS Global Access School. The program has been designed to stand at par with the best on-campus Executive MBA programs across the globe.
And the cherry on top – upGrad’s excellent flexible and interactive learning and evaluation systems allows you to balance your personal and professional life in a hassle-free manner. Check out for more information & let our student counselor help you with your questions.