Careers

Dreaming of a career break? Here's why it might not be so bad for your resume

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Some days, the thought of taking a career break can make you want to turn in your notice and dash out of the door. But then, just as quickly, the prospect of explaining that decision to your future employer can stop you in your tracks.

Taking a sabbatical from your job doesn't have to be a blemish on your resume, though, according to one of PayPal's most senior staff members, Rohan Mahadevan.

In fact, it could even be a selling point, he said. It was for him.

At 30, after completing his PhD in astrophysics and briefly running a start-up, Mahadevan and his wife sold all their belongings and packed their bags for a 12-month around-the-world trip. On returning, he scored a job at the then-relatively unknown PayPal. In the 14 years since, he has progressed through eight roles to become senior vice president for international markets.

He believes that much of his success today hinges on the time he spent early in his career learning about different societies and cultures.

"One of the things we keep talking about right now — which this (travel) gives — is diversity of thought: What you bring into a room," Mahadevan told CNBC Make It. "It's not just female and male diversity; it's about diversity of backgrounds, diversity of experiences, because all of that adds into when you make decisions."

But what you do with your career break matters.

It should be used as an opportunity to strengthen your skills or develop new ones related to your industry, Amanda Augustine, career consultant for employment advice site TopResume, told CNBC Make It earlier this year.

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People who have taken varied paths in their careers can add real value to their companies, said Mahadevan.

"If somebody's done something different, you have the ability to learn (from them) in the process," Mahadevan continued. "I think people are more attuned right now to accepting these diverse backgrounds."

It seems hiring managers may be catching on to that as well.

"If an employer has been keeping a finger on the pulse of today's workforce, they likely will not be surprised by a request for a sabbatical or additional time off to travel," Jodi Chavez, president of global recruitment firm Randstad Professionals, told CNBC Make It.

According to Chavez, a "large portion" of the company's temporary positions in the U.S. are the result of full-time employees leaving to travel. "Employees are finding it difficult to disconnect from work, so many feel they need to physically remove themselves from their jobs for an extended period to regain a true sense of balance," she said.

Explaining a gap on your resume

Of course, any gap in your resume is likely to raise questions from future employers, so it's important to figure out how you're going to present that. When it comes down to it, Chavez and Augustine agree: Honesty is the best policy.

"If an employer should ask about a travel resume gap, be honest," said Chavez. "Explain what you were hoping to achieve while traveling — just don't go into too much detail if one of those reasons was feeling burned out (you don't want to give the impression you're easily stressed at work)."

However, there are a few ways you can present it on your resume.

1. It's reasonable to remove the months from your employment dates on your resume and just include the years to make any gaps less obvious, according to both Chavez and Augustine.

2. Ditch the traditional reverse-chronological format and opt for a "skills-based" resume which highlights projects you've worked on and career experiences, said Chavez.

3. Additionally, if you use the sabbatical to do any voluntary or freelance work, make sure you list that to show how you kept busy.

"Be prepared to list a few of the things you learned and how your travels helped shape and reinvigorate your career goals," said Chavez.

"That way, potential employers may even view the break in a positive light because it shows you spent time recharging and are now approaching your career with renewed enthusiasm and fresh perspective."

The best time to take a break

While there is no perfect time to take a career break, it is important to take on learning experiences while you're young, said Mahadevan. PayPal runs a six-week sabbatical program which he and other staff have taken at various life stages.

"I think it's good to experience different things, especially when you're younger, and learn about different things," said Mahadevan. "I think it's really what you've done and what you've learned in the process."

If you hope to take a break and return to your current employer, you may need to be more tactical with your timing than if you plan to quit entirely. According to Chavez, that could mean talking to your boss about your strong performance and how you plan to develop skills that will benefit the team on your return.

"If an employer is not fully on-board with the plan immediately, the employee could share examples of other individuals whose careers have been rejuvenated, thanks to travel," added Chavez.