On a career break? Make the best use of it to return to work, say experts

How does one stay relevant while on a break? It’s the question we asked some experts who are working with women on a break or returning from a break.

We spoke to Neha Bagaria, founder & CEO of JobsForHer, an online connecting portal that enables women to restart their careers after breaks. It connects companies looking for experienced talent with women who wish to restart their careers.

Neha knows all about taking a break. In the course of her career, she decided to take a sabbatical from work to focus on motherhood. During this time, she became aware of the various difficulties most women face when they want to rejoin the workforce.

According to a report by the Indian Women Network, women make up 24 percent of the workforce in India, and 36 percent of them take a break from work.

Almost 91 percent of women who take a break in India want to come back to work. But again, an interesting fact, which the report highlights, is that 72 percent of women in India do not want to return to the same employer.

So it is not just motherhood but lack of growth opportunities, pay and gender bias that pushes women to take a break. However, most women wanting to return to work also use the break to invest in themselves.

As a restarter herself and having helped a large number of women return to work, Neha lists some key factors women need to take into consideration while on a break. These are simple ways to upskill yourself, do not cost a lot of money, but give enormous returns. Here’s what we found out:

Reskill to restart

“A sabbatical from work is the best time to upgrade your skills in your particular field of expertise. There are plenty of online tutorials in whatever skill/subject you feel you would like to work in. Additionally, you could take classes/workshops or attend meetups. Reskilling will not only show how passionate you are about your field but will also boost the professional development section of your resume,” shares Neha.

Reskilling helps to fill in the gap in CV and will keep you motivated to handle questions at an interview with more confidence.

There is no dearth of online courses and you can find something on Udemy, Coursera for yourself. Udemy has everything from marketing to lifestyle and music to personal development courses, while Coursera has history, philosophy to data science and computers to learn from. Here’s another list of online courses for professionals that women can take to be work ready.

There are multiple videos and podcasts online for skill learning and tutorials that will not just add to your CV but also strengthen your skills. One of them is HBR podcasts on Women At Work, which will help you understand and take on challenges at the workplace.

Have a strong online identity

While many people prefer to keep their personal and professional social media interactions separate, it is important to not miss out on it altogether. Even if you have personal activity channels, it is important to have a strong brand presence online. Be it Medium or LinkedIn, you can always find a way to express yourself through your writings an thoughts, and stay connected with others in a professional network.