Penalizing for Career Breaks

Career Breaks can be because of multiple reasons. Most commonly cited are raising a child, health concerns, taking care of ailing elders, study breaks.

Recruiters and Management who shortlist candidates for a job profile, outright reject the candidates with career breaks. Hear the first-hand experience of a few of them:

“I was laid off. I applied at many places but was being taken advantage of by being offered a pay cut or a demotion. I decided to wait for the right job. I had a huge bucket list of things I wanted to try but never got a chance. I took road trips, travelled to new places, learned newer skills along with searching for the job. My ex colleagues and peers were quite jealous of my new-found freedom and even though 90% promised, they didn’t quite help me with my job. Owing to my depleting monetary situation, I finally took a job with a huge pay cut. Although my boss commented during one of the days, that the quality of my work is better than what I am being paid but It is a career break penalty that I have to live with.“

“After marriage, I joined my Husband in his city. My company didn’t give the option for relocation and for a few months I tried many job interviews but was deemed unsuitable for the late-night shifts considering my newly changed status to being married. I started to freelance and then motherhood happened. The freedom of work from home enabled me to continue my professional life along with my personal life. After my child grew up, I started to apply for fulltime positions. But strangely, my freelancing stint was not treated as experience. Luckily, through my Husband’s reference and wield of power, I landed a job. Even though it was not the right way, but I opted for it thinking that I will prove to the industry that I am an eligible candidate. Sadly, not everyone has nepotism favoring them.”

“I had to quit job to look after my ailing parent. Being a care-giver is a very consuming work and after some time you lose in touch with the outside world. Sadly, I lost my parent, and then I fell ill. It took me a while to recover. During convalescing, I started to take up courses online – the MOOC courses to hone my skills. . I attended interviews but was rejected because I didn’t appear smart and sharp. How can an individual who is recovering from illness appear smart and sharp? Look at my work and then take a decision. Corporate world is a strange world. Till the time you are in a job, your peers, colleagues are there for you. But once out of job, you are out. Since, I had lost touch with my colleagues getting back to a full-time job was getting difficult. I tried to take advantage of the return to work program or second chance career. Sadly, the MNCs, where I applied, I never got a response. Forget about an acknowledgement not even a rejection letter. I spoke to multitude of recruiters but no response. I continue to do freelancing now and then to survive. Despite this career setback, I am proud and glad that I chose family over career.”

All these stories makes me draw a conclusion that management prefer to hire individuals who are in jobs and are seeking a change of job for better pay or promotion. Interestingly, many have switched multitude of jobs themselves and at times are seeking other jobs while interviewing candidates, but they question the candidate’s integrity and loyalty. Isn’t it a dichotomy that if you conduct a survey to ask management if they would willingly choose an individual with the right skills and attitudes with a career break, they all would say a resounding Yes. But in action, they would discreetly, push such resumes into the bins.

Do share if you have faced similar situations when you have tried to get back to a full-time job after a career break. Also, as part of the management, I would like to understand what stops you from giving a chance to such individuals or penalize them by offering lower payment and demotions?