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The Surprising Benefits of Career Break Applicants


As a sales manager looking to hire a seasoned pro for your team, how would you view a resume with a five-year gap between positions? Would you raise your eyebrows and then set that applicant aside? Don’t pass over these “relauncher” candidates so easily. Career breaks are gaining in momentum, and forward-looking hiring managers will need to consider those on non-traditional career paths if they want to be tapping top talent from every pool.

It’s important to define a “career break.” We’re not talking about a maternity leave, but rather an extended break of one to more than 20 years. It could be for childcare or eldercare reasons, pursuit of a personal interest, or a health issue. It might also be that some people took a career turn to a different role or industry and now want to relaunch their careers in areas where they are truly passionate. Relaunchers are also retirees coming out of retirement, expats repatriating, or veterans transitioning to the public sector. It’s an entire subsection of high-caliber candidates that are too often overlooked.

Career breaks are becoming increasingly common. According to a 2016 Manpower survey, 84% of millennials anticipate taking a break at some point in their career.* A 2014 Pew Research Center report  shows an increase in the number of U.S. stay-at-home moms to 29% in 2012 from 23% in 1999, reversing a long-term decline of stay-at-home moms.

Sales managers unfamiliar with the returning professional talent pool may assume something is wrong when they see that gap. But without discovering the context for it, they may be skipping over a potential star candidate with incredible experience. Case in point: Elizabeth Andrew DiGaetano.

Elizabeth is a top-producing technology sales executive, who has established herself as a leader, motivator, and role model with her inspiring story of career reentry by breaking barriers into the San Francisco technology space. At over 50 years old and after a 17 year career break, Elizabeth is currently a Senior Sales Executive at HelloSign. She was selected for The CLUB of Silicon Valley’s 2016 Incubator leadership program, and serves as an advisor to Women Serve On Boards. In her early career, Elizabeth was a VP and Director with Wells Fargo Asset Management, where she opened up the New England Region as a Mutual Fund Wholesaler and grew territory assets from $0 to $70 million.

Here are a few reasons why you might want to take a second look at those with career breaks:

The hiring crunch is real.

Right now, unemployment is at an all-time low; companies are constantly grappling with the difficulty in finding and hiring qualified candidates. With career breaks becoming much more common, it’s important to keep an open mind and really look at whole candidates and the entire spectrum of their careers — not just one part.

Salespeople don’t lose sales skills.

People who are talented salespeople don’t lose that talent just because they take a career break. At my company iRelaunch, we suggest that employers who are looking for new hires get back in touch with people who left to go on career break and were high performers. We’ve seen firsthand how effective they are once they’re back. The tools may have changed, but the fundamental sales strategies have not.

Your customer might want the experience.

Think about your customers and who you have selling to them. Take selling financial services as an example. Many customers who are making critical retirement decisions are in their 50s and 60s. They may not want to sit across the table from someone who’s the age of one of their kids to get advice on what services to purchase or how to invest retirement money.

Shifting the view on internships

Could your next interns have 20 years of experience instead of a few college credits under their belt? Consider creating a mid-career reentry internship program similar to your entry-level university internship program. Global companies running these programs are getting stellar hiring results. Check out this list of corporate mid-career internship programs.

At the end of the day, it’s all about taking a new view of candidates and a more nuanced look at a resume. Don’t overlook the experience that may be right at your fingertips.

* The Manpower study looks at breaks of more than four weeks, but the reasons for taking a break suggest the breaks may be longer in many cases.

Without discovering the context for [the break], they may be skipping over a potential star candidate with incredible experience”

Carol Fishman Cohen | CEO, iRelaunch

Learn More

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Making the Tricky Transition from Sales Peer to Sales Manager By Keith Rosen,
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