We've recently placed a number of candidates who for different reasons had taken a prolonged break from work. In one case, someone had taken six years to be with their family, had modest expectations of what job they might get on their return, and was quickly placed in a role in product control with a much higher salary than anyone had expected.
Though it is only human nature to worry about how a break will appear to a prospective employer, at a time when more job losses are likely, it's worth remembering that a career break does not have to mean the end of a career.
Some of the reasons for this are practical.
Very few people were hired between 2008 and 2009 so there is a significant shortage of candidates who have one or two years' experience. By hiring someone who took a career break, an employer may get a candidate with five or six years' experience. Whilst this may not be recent, employers know that a person doesn't lose their knowledge when they take a break. In the current skills shortage this creates a fresh pool of talent which fills important gaps.
But employers also see softer benefits. Taking a career break can often lead to new skills that others may not have, especially in terms of dealing with people and making decisions.
If you take a break to care for a family, it can make you a stronger, more confident communicator who is better able to work either as a team member or as a manager.
If you take time out to travel, volunteer or pursue a life ambition like walking across a continent, this brings valuable and rare knowledge and perspective - as well as showing determination.
This is also true if you've set up a business or turned a hobby into a business. It gives you knowledge of the bigger picture of running a company which others may lack.
Some career breaks aren't planned, but even when they're not, there is still the scope to use that time to build new skills which may lead to an even better career in the future. Regardless of why you put your career on pause, the benefits are still the same - you get time to step away from the rat race and replenish.
Be aware, however, that some factors may make your re-entry into the market harder than anticipated. In particular, the use of online job boards and search engines means your CV may not get picked up as quickly as it should. This is because 'recent employment' is often used to filter a large database of CVs into a manageable selection.
A career break is not a career end. However, for this to work you will need to find a sympathetic recruiter who can push your case. Don't just rely on getting your CV 'out there.'