We know it can be daunting to re-enter the job market after taking a career break. So here's a step-by-step return to work roadmap to get you back on the right track, summarising our top tips with lots of links to previous blog posts.
1. Be Clear About Your Career Goals
Start with clarifying your motivations to go back to work. Do you want to be a good role model for your children; do you want the status of a high-powered job; do you want or need to earn your own money? What does success mean to you? Returning to work after a career break is a great opportunity to consider what you really want to do, so think about what makes work enjoyable and fulfilling for you. What did you most enjoy about past jobs? How can you set your career compass? Then, if you are looking for flexibility to fit with your family life, think of all the different forms this could take rather than thinking part-time work is the only option: be flexible about flexibility.
2. Boost Your Confidence
Professional self-confidence usually gets a knock during a long career break. It helps to remind yourself of your strengths and achievements, before and during your break. Recognise and tackle your fears and doubts about returning to work. Remember that confidence comes from doing not thinking, so look for practical opportunities to regain your professional self, such as project work, or strategic volunteering if you've had a long break. You can find more tips on tacking self-doubt here and here. Don't write yourself off!
3. Refresh Your Skills and Knowledge
Get yourself back up-to-speed on your old industry (or learn about a new one) by completing professional courses through industry associations, attending conferences/seminars, signing up to relevant newsletters and meeting ex-colleagues to 'talk shop'. Stop worrying about your IT skills - take a course before you get back to work. Find courses locally through Floodlight and look at the free online MOOCs (Massive Online Courses), such as Coursera, which offer degree-level courses from top universities in a wide variety of subjects.
4. Be Strategic in your Job Search
Treat your job search as you would a job, making time each day and working methodically. Don't fall into the trap of endlessly trawling online jobs boards looking for the right job and firing off scattergun CVs. If you're looking for flexible work, target specialist agencies and job boards. Do look at the growing number of opportunities aimed at returning professionals (collated on our website) and think creatively about how you can reduce your risk to an employer. Prioritise building and using your networks, as this remains the most likely avenue for finding a role ...
5. Grow and Use Your Network
Networking isn't about approaching people and asking for a job. Networking is about making contact with people and is a part of life - you do it at the school gates and in your local communities all the time. Take time to prepare a convincing and credible professional introduction first (see here for how to do so) and then read our tips for enjoyable networking. Meeting an ex-colleague for coffee or asking a friend of a friend for a quick chat is a good start. For other ways to build you back-to-work networks see here. If you haven't heard of informational interviews, find out how valuable they can be in this post.
6. Hone Your CV
It's likely that your CV needs updating, in terms of format and content. The point of a CV is to show others what you are capable of. So highlight the headlines of your life, focusing on what you achieved in your roles not on your responsibilities. For a more detailed guide to post career break CV’s see here.
7. Optimise Your LinkedIn
You may have avoided LinkedIn or it may be gathering dust at the back of your bookmarks. Now’s the time to give it the focus it deserves.
- Include a professional-style profile picture.
- Use the first paragraph of the summary section wisely. This is the place to include a strong summary of who you are, what you have done and what you want to do now.
- Don’t hide or ignore your career break. In your profile you can say 'following a parental career break, I am looking to ..'. In your work experience put 'parental career break' with dates. Include any skilled volunteer work, small business and consulting work within this career break section or as a separate role if they're significant.
- To learn more about creating a great Linked In profile see here.
8. Prepare for Interviews
Read books and articles, research the organisation and most importantly, practise, practise, practise. Prepare answers to the typical questions and rehearse them with anyone willing to listen. Don’t undersell yourself, this is not the time to be modest; take credit for your achievements and let your prospective employer see the best of you. To find out the six essential steps for successful interviewing read here.
If this article has given you the inspiration you need to get yourself back out there, you can find a fuller list of our most popular return-to-work advice articles here.
Posted by Donna & Julianne