LinkedIn’s ‘career break’ feature can help normalize resume gaps

After Yahaira Castro gave birth 15 years ago, she returned to her job in higher education while her husband stayed home with their new baby. After all, her job offered better health benefits, she said.

But while returning to work seemed like a logical decision, it turned out to be more emotionally difficult than she had anticipated. “I don’t think I understood how difficult it would be when I go back to work,” said Castro, 43, who lives in Jersey City.

Working remotely during the pandemic, she said, allowed her to spend more time with her now-teenage husband — and she felt she was making up for lost time.

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Castro started returning to the office twice a week last fall, she said. But when she learned that she and other staff would eventually have to return to in-person work more often over time, Castro “decided I couldn’t go back” to office life, he said. she declared. In February, she quit her job.

Shortly after, she added a new entry to her LinkedIn profile: “career hiatus.”

“After more than 16 years in a higher education institution, I am exploring new opportunities for remote or hybrid work to balance my family responsibilities,” Castro wrote under the entry.

“Career Break” is a feature the platform introduced last month in an effort to “recognize that your time off is just as important, if not more so, than traditional work experiences,” according to Camilla Han-He, senior product manager. on LinkedIn’s Profile and Identity Products team.

With this feature, LinkedIn users can categorize their absence from paid work as one of 13 “types” of career breaks – including bereavement, career transition, caregiving, part-time parenting full and health and wellness – and add details about what led to the career hiatus and what they did during the hiatus.

LinkedIn says the new feature could be a boon for women, pointing to data the company gathered information from a survey of nearly 23,000 workers and more than 4,000 hiring managers that found nearly two-thirds of employees had taken a break at some point in their careers and that 68% of women surveyed said they “want more ways to positively represent their career breaks by showcasing the skills they learned and the experiences they had while on a work break.

For Castro and other LinkedIn users and experts, the new feature is a promising first step toward normalizing time spent away from paid work and recognizing the relevance of those experiences once people return to paid work. But experts also warn that it is incumbent on employers to reassess the qualities and experiences they see as most important in employees – valuing caregiving as the skilled workforce that it is.

“I think the message needs to be: Employers need to step up and create pathways for people to get back into the workforce,” said Tami Forman, the founding CEO of Path Forward, a New York-based nonprofit that supports caregivers looking to restart their paid careers. “There are still a lot of prejudices about what makes someone an ideal worker. … We have to recognize that part of this is a stigma of caregiving.

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Part of how this stigma manifests is through what researchers call the “maternity sentence,” which may result that mothers are left out of jobs, receive lower wages and face other prejudices in the workplace.

Castro saw this stigma even as a young woman, she said. “The message I got for years was, ‘You can’t take a break from your career,'” she said. “It’s such a damaging message to people that you always have to be turned on – that’s not life.”

But mothers aren’t the only workers penalized for time off from the paid workforce. A study 2018 published by the American Sociological Association found that only 5.4% of stay-at-home dads and 4.9% of stay-at-home moms received callbacks after sending resumes for potential jobs, compared to about 9% of unemployed applicants and about 15%. candidates employed overall.

And one study 2020 published in the research journal Demography found that workers with the most employment gaps experience up to 40% lower wages later in life, compared to workers without these gaps, with women of all racial groups, black men, less educated people and people living in poverty at age 22 most likely to have followed unstable career paths in their lifetime.

The stigma of career breaks is part of why Valdas Sirutis, a 35-year-old former investment adviser in Vilnius, Lithuania, was initially hesitant to put his career break on his LinkedIn profile. He uses his free time to spend time with his newborn daughter, in addition to volunteering and thinking about his next career moves, he said.

But, ultimately, he concluded that “this is who I am, and this is the part of life I’m going through right now, and why be ashamed of it?” he said. “If a company truly believes in me and my skills, the fact that I took off… [a few] months will not be an obstacle for them to hire me.

Since the start of the pandemic, many workers have also renegotiated their workplace relationships, seeking career changes and demanding better wages and benefits from employers. Many women have dropped out of the workforce to manage childcare and distance learning after mass school and daycare closures. There are still 872,000 fewer women in the labor force than in February 2020, according to a recent analysis by the National Women’s Law Center. Women with disabilities, women ages 20 to 24, black women and Latinas face the highest overall unemployment rates, according to NWLC analysis.

According to Anna McKay, founder of Parent Pivotan online support platform for parents wishing to resume gainful employment.

In her coaching, she uses an acronym – DEPTH – to remind parents how their caregiving experiences equip them with qualities that can be assets in the paid workplace. These include drive and determination, energy, previous professional and personal experience, thought-provoking questions, innovation and heart.

“People who have taken a break to take care of their responsibilities really have this ability to … be agile for business,” McKay said.

Non-parents also report having reinforced some of these qualities during their career breaks by practicing another type of caregiving: self-care.

Eric Cooper, a 25-year-old Boston-based project manager, took a five-month break from his career last year – which he has since added to his LinkedIn profile – to focus on his mental health after being exhausted from his work. -imposed long hours and years of frequent job changes, he says.

“I was not able to do my job,” he said. “I was so sick and so exhausted, so tired. … I couldn’t even send an email without having a panic attack.

But taking time off, Cooper said, “really taught me to rest and reset” – which has since allowed him to work more effectively in his new role at a financial company, he added: “I’ve changed, I’ve grown, I’m healthy. …I’m killing it.

For Rebecca Wessell, 32, a New York resident, her current career hiatus — which she began in February after leaving her position as chief operating officer for an app — involves focusing “on my health, my hobbies and my rest,” according to his LinkedIn page.

She considers adding details of her career hiatus to her profile “de-stigmatizes her for myself and hopefully other people as well,” she said.

But she’s also wary of the new feature’s limitations: “I like that they’ve formalized it – this formalization gives it recognition – but there are still a lot of structural issues in the US that need to be resolved before it’s a meaningful and viable option for many people,” Wessel said. “Employer stigma, health care, paid time off – all of these things make it difficult for [a career break] be accessible to many people.

Han-He, LinkedIn’s senior product manager, agrees there’s a need “to start recognizing that life experiences are part of our work experiences,” she said. “In many cases, it is your off-summary experiences that are at the heart of your passions and strengths. »

Castro pursues some of her passions: working on her writing and completing a certificate program in instructional design.

And she says she has no regrets about going public with her career breakdown. “Who I am now is the real version of me,” Castro said. “All the things I do now are really important to me, so I thought I’d rather present the truest version of me than not.”

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