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Tell me about yourself - should I mention break?

PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2016 4:39 pm
by MRE
Hi All,
I am in the process of applying to various positions, specifically in industry and have not had much of a response. I have attended events and networked with people, who all seem to be very interested and say are impressed with my background, however, when I follow up with them, I do not hear back. I have had one phone interview so far.

Background - PhD in Materials Engineering --> 4 yrs Post-doc --> 3 year break (had a child, became dependent (visa), now I have the necessary work authorization!). In the interim, completed and published on projects from post-doc, took some courses online, but did not go for certifications.

Questions -
----Would my being upfront about my break at the beginning of any conversation (say in a phone interview during "tell me about yourself" question) instead of them learning through my resume, improve my chances of landing a job? I am getting mixed information when I researched about it online.

----As such, I would really appreciate any suggestions on how I can make myself more visible to companies and be more proactive with getting back to the workforce.....all the possible things I can do (other than self-employ) that would get me an interview to begin with.

----Would getting certifications for the courses that I am taking online (coursera/Udacity) be of more value than just learning about fields such as Data Science/Predictive Analytics etc.?

----Any do and don't s for someone in my situation during any conversation/interview?


Thanks!

Re: Tell me about yourself - should I mention break?

PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2016 1:06 am
by D.X.
Hi - in my mind it won't matter when your break comes up in conversation - the fact is it will come up, it has to, and there will be weighting applied.

However - how you position the break with attention to your tone (affirmation and proud) will be important. Ie : own it. You did great things - had a child. Maybe Amy had an international move, and you still invested in your development.

Unfortunately - you will find others who will not appreciate your beak - you will find this negative view more so in the US (a bit backwards on this front) vs Europe.

Here in Europe a term that's coming into use for people taking break from career either to travel or start family is "sabbatical". Or you can be more specific and say "family leave sabbatical" - explain what you did (affirming tone) - then go back to the job at hand and what you bring.

I think for you the term is good - however it is being abused by some who have been fired who have a prolonged time finding s job so they say they were on sabbatical or have too many sabbaticals.. ahem.. but this is no t you.

Anyways good luck!!

DX

Re: Tell me about yourself - should I mention break?

PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2016 10:28 am
by MRE
Thank D.X.! That was certainly helpful.
I have a phone interview scheduled for this week and will watch my tone. Any suggestions from those in the US?

Re: Tell me about yourself - should I mention break?

PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 1:18 am
by Lydia
MRE,

I have been in a similar situation and D.X.'s advice is good. I think you need to be upfront about the time off (it will be obvious on your resume, why make a hiring manager wonder about it or come to the wrong conclusion?). Most importantly, you need to stay focused on what you bring to the table and keep a positive tone.

As far as getting yourself out there - I got leads on jobs by networking. Getting involved with AWIS was really helpful; it was one of my AWIS connections that made the introduction that led to that first job. I even got one informational interview as a result of talking to one of the other moms at a baby play group - it turned out that her husband worked at one of the companies I was interested in. I also got interviews via applying for jobs directly and attending a job fair. It was not easy to get that 1st job and I was very discouraged, but you really need to stay positive about your abilities and focused on what you are looking for.

I am 10 years and 2 jobs past my 3 year break. It really does not come up anymore. Good luck and stay confident!

Re: Tell me about yourself - should I mention break?

PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 3:56 pm
by Dave Jensen
An outstanding reply from Lydia on this topic, which we struggle with regularly when asked about it. Good job and thanks for being here -- both of you,

Dave Jensen
Founder and Moderator

Re: Tell me about yourself - should I mention break?

PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:23 am
by Caroline Ritchie
MRE,

From a US perspective, I think you should not only mention this early in the conversation, but make sure that the courses you took (and the month/year you took them) are included in your resume. I think you should also emphasize in interviews that this "break" was always intended to be temporary and why you feel it is the right time to rejoin the workforce. In your situation, a strong cover letter will be critical to get to the first round of the interview process. In my prior experience hiring within industry, I would typically pass over a resume if the candidate had been out of work for a long period of time -- unless that candidate provided compelling information in the form of a cover letter.

You did not mention what type of roles you are applying for in industry. If you are aiming for a laboratory-based position, this may be more difficult to jump back into after a 3-year break. If you are considering other types of roles (eg, technical/scientific writing), you might be able to find some freelance or consulting roles to add to your resume.

Re: Tell me about yourself - should I mention break?

PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 11:15 am
by MRE
Lydia and Caroline, thank you so much for your advice!

While I continued networking after my break, I have been more active only very recently. Attending events and meeting people has helped me stay more focussed and positive, however, my staying positive (as D.X also suggested I be with my tone) has been a roller coaster ride. When I think I am getting a lead and follow up, there is no response leading me to conclude that I am doing something terribly wrong.

In terms of the roles in industry, I was primarily applying to process engineering and R&D positions. I have come to realize though that many of the places I applied to have the NCG policy. Over the past couple of months, I found business analytics and data science to be very interesting and am accordingly taking online courses. Currently, I am applying to any position where my skills match even a single job requirement. This is for the need to get off the break scenario so that I can eventually work my way into a position that I want.

Based on all the advice here, I am definitely going to be upfront about my break and work on my cover letter to provide that information in a compelling manner.

Thanks again!

Re: Tell me about yourself - should I mention break?

PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:20 pm
by MDM
I just sat in s manager training session by HR the other day where we were informed that the state of California has recently added asking about gaps in employment to the list of things you should not ask during interviews if you want to protect yourself from a discrimination lawsuit. The state has decided to respect the fact that sometimes people need to leave the workforce for very personal reasons. Asking about gaps in employment potentially takes you down a road of touching upon some of the other protected categories you are not to ask about during interviews.

Re: Tell me about yourself - should I mention break?

PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:25 pm
by Dave Jensen
MDM wrote:I just sat in s manager training session by HR the other day where we were informed that the state of California has recently added asking about gaps in employment to the list of things you should not ask during interviews if you want to protect yourself from a discrimination lawsuit. The state has decided to respect the fact that sometimes people need to leave the workforce for very personal reasons. Asking about gaps in employment potentially takes you down a road of touching upon some of the other protected categories you are not to ask about during interviews.


I haven't heard that, very interesting, but it's probably impossible to deal with for HR. I would NEVER stop asking people about gaps in their employment. It's an absolute must-ask question. You can't have a person come to work for you if there's a big gap between companies, or for that matter, a laundry list of jobs that are 6 months to a year in duration. These things are just too risky for an employer. On the other hand, I would totally give a person a break if they said they had "personal reasons" and needed a 9 month break between jobs. I would not ask further, and if you did, I think that might be where the trouble could come in.

Dave