WORK: Returning to work after a career break? Here are six tips for a smooth transition

10 March 2019

How to get back into the swing of working after extended leave.

By Nicole Gorton, Director of Robert Half

Everyone knows ‘life’ doesn’t always fit around a full-time job and within a few weeks of annual leave. Indeed, there are many reasons why people decide to momentarily step off the career ladder, from pursuing hobbies to travelling the world. But, there’s no doubt, starting a family is one of the top reasons with almost three-quarters (73%) of women taking a career break for family reasons.

If you’ve taken extended time away from work to focus on family, you’re far from alone, but that doesn’t make it any less daunting when it feels like the time is right to get back in the game. While many people fear a gap in their CV may alienate employers, others may have self-doubting thoughts, such as having fallen behind on new and relevant skills.

For a seamless re-entry back into the workforce, here are some tips that’ll see your anxieties fade away and help re-oil those career wheels in no time at all.

Consider flexible or part-time opportunities

Taking an extended period off work to start a family is a long way from a relaxing holiday but launching straight into full-time employment could be jumping in a little too deep too soon. Part-time roles and flexible working arrangements could be the perfect way to ease back into working life and brush up on your skills before considering full-time options. What’s more, the process of returning to work could be much less stressful by retaining just enough personal time to manage important family commitments.

Avoid a false start – don’t settle for anything

You might be feeling a little rusty but don’t apply for the first role you find just because you feel like you’re on the ‘back foot’ compared to other candidates. Be confident in your ability to add value to an organisation and take time to ensure the opportunity and organisational culture is right for you. While it’s likely hiring managers will sense your doubt during the interview phase, securing an unsuitable role could result in a short-term period of employment which could be even more detrimental to your confidence and CV.

Explore your networks

While applying for a role could leave you answering to a gap in your CV, your existing professional connections might already have a clear idea about your skills and capabilities. In this case, past colleagues, clients, friends and family may be willing to offer existing or upcoming opportunities, or even refer you to someone else with a glowing reference – regardless of your time off.

Prepare

Preparation will be key to re-entering the job market with confidence and a clear-sighted attitude. Before you start scouring the market for suitable opportunities, make a list of all your skills and abilities and understand how they will bring value to a prospective organisation. Having a clear picture of your credentials will not only enable you to target the most suitable roles and excel during interviews but it’ll also allow you to identify and address any skills gaps that have opened as a result of your time away. Keeping up-to-date with industry news, research, trends and employer insights could be incredibly beneficial to helping you consider additional training opportunities that could see you standing out from the crowd.

Refresh your resume

Times change quickly in the employment market which means an outdated CV could make you stand out for all the wrong reasons. So, after an extended period off, don’t just blow the dust off that ageing document and start sending it out. Take some time to do your research – ensure your CV addresses employers’ most sought-after skills and the language and terminology speaks to recruiters in the current market.

Know your value

After taking a break away from the world of work, it can be easy to lose track of where the market is at with regards to remuneration and benefits. In this case, it’s important to gain a clear understanding of industry standard salaries before entering negotiations about remuneration. The Robert Half Salary Guide is a great tool to help you align your expectations prior to making an application or entering an interview. And remember, despite your time off, having confidence in your skills and experiences will help you negotiate a competitive starting salary.

Getting back into working life after focussing on other priorities can be an unnerving prospect, but remember, your extended break alone is no obstacle. Returning to the workplace and successfully securing work is about embracing the right attitude and approach before embarking on your new journey.

Written by

Kids on the Coast/Kids in the City
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