8 April 2022
As of March 2022, more than 700 million people worldwide have obtained a new right: the right to productive absence. The only actor with the power to implement this quickly around the world, through a simultaneously political and cultural operation, was LinkedIn. And it has done so: it has in fact inaugurated the era of “career breaks”, activating in its profiling the possibility of filling old gaps with definitions, thus providing working life with a new vocabulary.
Indeed, in referring to them as “career breaks”, it uses a term semantically more akin to interruption than interval. The English language then, miraculously, allows them to be interpreted both as breaks in a career and as breaks “for the purpose” of a career. This is perhaps the reason that the term not been translated into Italian, thus retaining the privilege of ambiguity..
In making this choice, LinkedIn also made several others, all quite significant for work culture. First of all, it chose which categories to include under the umbrella of career breaks, thus legitimising a series of life events while giving it a name that was inclusive and semi-comprehensive of all possibilities.
The amount of effort put in can be seen in the number of categories from which it is now possible to choose: the taxonomy of life transitions inaugurated by LinkedIn consists of just 13 options whereas, if any of us were to list the number of expected and unforeseen events that can divert us from our career (itself a word ultimately derived from a word for wagon and indicating the road laid out for it), we would come up with at least 50 definitions.
This is a clear indication of the amount of work put in: the 13 LinkedIn categories are divided almost equally between family, work and the personal dimension, in some cases with a certain specificity and in others with an openness that does not, however, cloud their meaning. Here they are (note that even in Italy they are listed in English):
2. career transition
4. full-time parenting
5. gap year
6. layoff/position eliminated
7. health and well-being
8. personal goal pursuit
9. professional development
13. voluntary work
The second choice was to present these options in a new way: by showing – based on the data – that 62% of workers have had periods of absence in the past and that a further 35% already know that they will have them in the future, LinkedIn in fact points out that this constitutes a stigma at the time of return to work, not least because one in five managers openly state that they would reject this type of candidate out of hand.
Rejection then goes well beyond this 20% of managers: the road to get “back on track” is tortuous for many other reasons, whether overt or not. To all intents and purposes, this is a huge pool of talent that ends up in a grey area of assessment due to a cultural stereotype that sees people divided up according to their different uses: with this view, if the area used for clerical work is “switched off”, there is nothing else to see, evaluate, measure.
LinkedIn therefore recommends being able to look at people in their entirety and reveals that 51% of managers would reconsider the same previously rejected candidate if they knew “why” they have that break on their CV.
This means seeing us better and in more depth, to break the stereotype of “nothing here” through a richer and more accurate account of our lives. This sounds easy to say. The problem is that stereotypes thrive above all in times of urgency and uncertainty: they are always effective shortcuts, they produce known errors and are protected by all the tools, procedures and conventions that they have generated over the years.
LinkedIn’s recommendation is therefore to sharpen one’s eyesight to be able to recognise the skills that these breaks have generated simply because they are intense life experiences.
The original article was written by Riccarda Zezza and published on AlleyOop, the blog of Il Sole 24 Ore. To read the full article, click here.