How do you get back into management, after stepping back to finish school and after my mother died…
Shon V
1

Shon V sorry for the delayed response. Ironically, I’ve been dealing with my own transition back into management.

First, I would argue that not everything is LinkedIn’s business. I have roles that I don’t include on LinkedIn (e.g. I once quit HubSpot for 87 days in 2012 and briefly took a CMO role elsewhere — that role isn’t on there at all). It’s not that I’m hiding anything, but if there’s anyone to whom that’s important I’m more than happy to explain in person. A LinkedIn profile is not a resume. At best, it’s a shallow representation of who we are as professionals.

Any hiring manager worth their salt is going to notice gaps like that, however, and ask about it — likely on the phone screen. There, if you’re comfortable, it’s perfectly okay to explain what you were doing during that period. Any company that can’t understand taking time off for the passing of a parent or for your own serious health issues isn’t a company you’d want to work at anyways. Even if you did take the job, odds are the poor culture would lead you to leave relatively quickly which would be far more difficult to explain to future hiring managers.

I’d also encourage you to reflect on what you learned during the period you were away. Perhaps, as in the case of school, you learned things that actually made you better prepared to be an effective people manager. While I was away from management, I was teaching at Harvard University and working with a team from MIT Sloan on strategy research as well as writing for this ThinkGrowth.org publication. Taking that time to slow down, study, and learn more has equipped me to be a far more effective executive.

In your case, you likely learned things in school that will set you up for success. However, through your life issues you likely also learned an enormously valuable lesson in work/life balance. Few people will be able to match your empathy when coaching their team members on that difficult balancing act. If the old cliche is that the hardest steel is forged in the hottest fire, you’re equipped to handle even the hardest problems the future high performers under your leadership may face. Emphasizing that in the interview process is worthwhile — even very self-aware hiring managers don’t usually think about things from that perspective. In fact, I might even frame that entire response as a story: “You know, I once had an employee tell me that they needed to take time off for {{insertLifeEventHere}}. I was fine with it, of course, but now that I’ve gone through my own series of life’s challenges I know that coaching people through difficult times in their life while maintaining their professional performance and career trajectory takes more than simply not-saying-no. Let me tell you what happened to me…” etc.

It’s also an opportunity to share what you’ve learned about yourself. One of the things I learned about myself was that while my original article talks about how “I like doing stuff”, after I moved away from people management what I learned about myself was that the real fulfillment I had found in my work was the impact I was having on people. Sure, I’m proud that through HubSpot Labs we created an enormous amount of value and accomplished seemingly impossible goals — but what means the most to me is that members of that team are doing incredibly well and still reach out to me for advice or just to catch me up on their success. That’s such an incredible feeling. I could get hit by an asteroid tomorrow and still have confidence that I’ve had a durable, lasting, positive impact on the world — not because of me “doing stuff” that’s probably already been changed, but because of the people I helped develop and coach.

I’m taking Mihai with me to my new role leading the marketing team at BirdEye.com to help remind me of what I enjoy about management.

One of my most prized personal possessions is still the tiny figurine of Mihai the Brave that one of the senior people from my Romanian contingent, CiprianGavriliu, gave to me upon my departure from leading the HubSpot Labs team. Our team faced some difficult times (although not as difficult as the real Mihai’s), and Mihai is a well-respected leader in Romania. It was enormously meaningful to me that Ciprian associated the two of us in any way.

I hope this helps. The gap in your management career is not a bad thing, and you should make that clear to any future hiring managers or leaders who ask about it.

More people should take time away from management. Some may stay away forever, and those people will have a more fulfilling personal career. But some may return to management some day with a clarified perspective on what aspects of people management are most meaningful to them and deserve the most focus.