Mind The Gap

April 9, 2019
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Keeping Relevant and Connected during a Career Absence

There are many reasons today why people take an absence from their profession or career for a period of time.  It could be that you need to take a break in order to care for an ill family member, for your own health reasons or to care for young children.  It could also be an involuntary induced decision due to redundancy or a company restructure.  Maybe you want a career break for some transformational travel or just for some breathing space to re-evaluate.  People take different decisions at different times in their lives around career.  I myself, took an absence for 9 months in 2016 after my mother was ill.  It was long enough for a lot of changes not only in terms of my profession but also in general within the workplace as it became more digitalised with advanced use of new technology.

No-matter what the reason is, or how long the duration, the most important recommendation I can make to anyone embarking on such an absence is to try keep relevant and connected during that period of time, as much as you can.  It will also help if and when you decide to return to work and are asked that killer question in interview “Why the Gap?”.  You will be ready with your answer and what you did in terms of professional and personal development as well as keeping connected during that time.

So as part of a 3-part article over the next couple of weeks I am going to share some personal recommendations on how you might choose to keep relevant and connected during a period of absence.  I hope you find it beneficial.  So starting today with ………

  1. Keep Thy CUP Full

CUP (a term of my own) meaning Continual Upskilling Professionally, is really important today, absence or not.  Research and keep up-to-date with what’s new relating to your profession or the world of work on a regular basis.   Maybe there are some new thought leadership insights, new technologies or ways of working.  Identify them and then actively develop a plan around keeping up-to-date in these areas throughout the year.   

This can be as simple as signing up for a couple of free webinars with relevant groups or associations, reading up or continuing to follow the thought leaders in your area e.g. on-line on LinkedIn, YouTube, Tedtalks or other social media.  There is a wealth of information on-line.  It could also mean embarking on something completely new but essential to keep up with the modern way of working for example undertaking a digital marketing course or a new software and systems training as technology continues to accelerate. 

You do not have to have a big budget or invest in a 2 years Masters.   There are so many training courses that are either short-term, subsidised, on-line or even free of charge to help keep you upskilled.  Obviously, if you are signed on the Live Register there are a number of free government initiatives and programmes that you can avail of.  But for those who are not, there are still a huge number of options.  Skillnet Ireland (www.skillnetireland.ie)  offers an excellent array of subsidised short-term business courses.  There is also Springboard which offers over 8,000 places on over 240 free of heavily discounted courses although there are some restrictions around eligibility so check out www.springboardcourses.ie for more information. The Cork Education Training Board (http://cork.etb.ie/) offers subsidised short term courses here in Cork.    Their Digital Marketing 10 week evening course which I recently completed cost €200 and offered a mix between practical and theory along with certification from the Marketing Institute of Ireland at the end.   

If you are limited in terms of physical attendance there are numerous free on-line or remote training courses available.  Shaw Academy (www.shawacademy.com), Udemy (www.udemy.com ),Coursera (www.coursera.org) and Alison (www.Alison.com ) all offer free online training courses from Digital Photography to JavaScript and Law.  LinkedIn Learning (www.Lynda.com ) offers a monthly premium subscription for approximately €30 per month where you can track and complete courses related to your field and interests across business, technology and creative topics. You can also add these courses to your LinkedIn profile once you’ve completed them.  If you have not had a previous LinkedIn Premium subscription within the last year you would be eligible for a 30-day free trial.  

Moocs (Massive Open Online Courses) are a brilliant concept and are free online courses offered by Universities around the world in an array of fields to include Humanities, Computer Science and Business Management.  You can undertake training such as Psychology, Artificial Intelligence, Neuroscience or Economics in world-renowned third level institutions including Trinity College, Harvard University and The University of Oxford for free.   You can also explore courses outside your profession to experiment in areas that may hold an interest for you but you have never had the opportunity to explore.  More information here http://mooc.org/.  Who knows you could be speaking Russian in 6 months?

Part 2 to follow next week on “Connection”.

Aideen Shannon

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