Would you walk away from an 18-year career? Learn about what it’s like to take a career break – and how to land a job when you return.

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This paid content was co-created in partnership with Bank of America.

To some, the thought of quitting your job can seem pretty frightening. To others, time away from the workforce may seem like a dream come true.

With longer hours and higher workloads, being employed today is more demanding than ever. Because of this, more and more people are choosing to quit their job and take a “career break.” The specific motivations for this can vary: taking care of children, pursuing community service, traveling abroad or simply recovering from burnout.

Sabbaticals aren’t just for academics, anymore.

Luckily, Bank of America recognizes that employees that have taken time off have fresh, unique skills to contribute to the company. That’s why they’ve created the Returning Talent Workshop in Charlotte to help people jump back into the workforce after a break in their careers. The workshop was designed to provide professionals who have taken a career break with tools, resources and networking opportunities to bridge the gap and re-enter the workforce.

Interested in learning more about what it’s like to take a career break, and how you could do it, too? Keep reading.

We spoke with two Bank of America employees, Yolanda Lindsay (VP of Consumer Banking Market Leader) and Rick Holstead (Assistant VP AML Investigator) who both recently took sabbaticals and have now returned to the workforce. We also interviewed Jenise Tate (SVP, Global Talent Acquisition, Head of Women’s Strategic Initiatives) at Bank of America, to hear her perspective on hiring candidates who have taken time off.

Before Leaving

What steps did you take to evaluate if a leave was something you were interested in?

Yolanda: My decision to take time off was based on the impact on my family. I never thought I would walk away from an 18-year career. I would highly recommend determining the pros and cons of the decision and then acting in the best interest of you and your family.

Rick: After living and working hard in the New York City area for many years, my wife and I were burnt out. We asked ourselves if it would be easy to return, if we had enough resources to pay our living expenses, and if we were willing to risk losing a promotion, a raise in salary, starting a family, etc.

How did you approach this conversation with your manager?

Rick: I was dreading having the conversation about leaving since it was going to cause more work and turmoil for my manager and my staff. I almost felt I was letting my manager down by quitting. To ease the initial shock and ease the transition, I decided to give a month notice.

Prior to your departure, how did you prepare your manager and colleagues?

Yolanda: I was proactive and intentional – It’s important to leave with your reputation intact and stay in touch with your network.   

Rick: I did not want to leave on bad terms, because I knew I was going to need a reference for future job opportunities. Prior to leaving, I created a detailed transition plan and the weeks leading up to my last day, I spent extra time training my temporary replacement.

The Leave

How did you spend your time away from work?

Yolanda: It was my first time in my adult life that I totally disengaged from the workforce and I had FUN! I also became surprisingly occupied with community organizations, like Good Friends, Jack & Jill of America, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha and more.

Rick: We lived in Germany for two years. I attended a German language and culture studies school and became a stay at home husband. During the day I would study German and, on the weekends we would travel and visit as many new places as we could. I knew I would be returning to work eventually, so I stayed current on events, followed hiring trends, researched skills employers were searching, and completed additional training to keep my licenses current.

How long was your leave and was it the right amount of time?

Rick: In my case, the time was just right but I would not have minded if I stayed longer in Europe. I was beginning to miss the projects, the challenges, the camaraderie and the extra income.

Returning to Work

How was the transition back to work following your leave?

Yolanda: I was fortunate that my return timing aligned to the timing of Bank of America’s first year of the Returning Talent Workshop in Charlotte.  It was an awesome two-day experience and I gained exposure to the company, culture and executives.

Rick: I was excited to return to work; however, looking for a job is stressful and can chip away at your self-esteem. Luckily, I attended a Returning Talent Workshop hosted by Bank of America, which helped learn how to capitalize on my experiences during my employment gap.

Did you have any key learnings or experiences from your leave that were beneficial once you returned to work?

Yolanda: I spent time thinking about my transferable skills and where and how I could use them.  I also would recommend keeping an open mind to lateral moves rather than only considering upward mobility.

Rick: My experience with having an international bank account, experiencing different cultures and learning a second language differentiated me from a sea of applicants when returning to work.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people considering a leave?

Yolanda: Be confident and courageous in the journey, AND be humble as you explore your options.

Rick: If possible, make networking and education a priority during your leave. Also, former colleagues, friends and even family members can be personal recruiters and your greatest allies by recommending you to other people and hiring managers.

So what does Jenise Tate (SVP, Global Talent Acquisition at Bank of America) think about career breaks?

What do employers think about when they’re considering someone who’s taken time off?

We value the collective set of experiences and skills professionals in this talent pool used during their former career, as well as the talents they used in non-traditional settings during their career break. We look for talent who have self-awareness, focus and know how their unique background can help them succeed in the role(s) they are seeking.

How can candidates set themselves apart if they’ve taken a career break and feel like they need to compensate for that lost time?

Candidates stand out when they take the time to do their homework and stay informed of current events relevant to the industry. The exemplary candidate will have taken the time to complete coursework, certificates, degrees or obtain licenses.

Are there any assumptions recruiters make when they see a candidate has taken time off from work? 

It would be completely misleading to say ‘no.’ Thankfully, due to the inclusive environment that we foster at Bank of America and the courageous conversations we are having within our teams, we can say ‘yes and’ those assumptions are changing. We know that the candidate could have taken time off for a variety of reasons – all important to that individual. We provide tremendous support to those who are making the transition and choosing to re-enter the workforce.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to get back into the workforce?

First, everyone who knew you well during your career break, in a prior career and everyone you meet is a potential advocate for your career re-entry. Share your story and be specific about how others can help you. You have to ‘put yourself out there’ – be bold and ask for help, know your story and tell it courageously.

Learn more and connect to the Bank of America talent community here, and explore all of Bank of America’s open positions here.

This paid content was co-created in partnership with Bank of America.
Cover photo by Uncle Jut. 

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