Returning to work after an extended break is rarely easy. When your professional-self is a hazy memory, it’s hard to feel capable of picking up your career where you left off – whatever your reason for taking a break and whether it’s been 12 months, or more than a decade.
You start off by thinking, “I don’t mind what I do”. Next, you trawl online sites for any job you could do that is flexible/local/pays enough. You fire off job applications and wait.
When yet another “thank you, we have received applications from candidates with more recent experience” reply appears, you feel demoralised. Your already-fragile self-confidence plummets.
Sound familiar? In our experience, this is ‘Plan A’ for most returners – and the least likely to succeed.
That’s why we came up with an alternative plan of action, starting with…
Boosting your self-belief
Returners usually undervalue what they can offer an employer. Be clear on your strengths and skills to increase your confidence and give you energy for your job search.
- Ask friends and family for feedback on what you’re good at (with examples)
- Take an on-line strengths assessment like Strengthsfinder
- Write down at least 5 achievements and the skills you demonstrated
- Update your skills and knowledge by taking refresher courses, reading about current industry issues and following potential employers on Twitter
Prepare to network
Before you meet people in your chosen industry and start to network, it’s important to structure your story, with your career break in the middle.
Be prepared to:
- Outline your pre-break work experience and qualifications
- Give a brief explanation for your break. Don’t apologise or justify. Mention relevant study or voluntary work
- Describe what you want to do now (if you’re not sure yet, provide a few options).
Then start with telling friends and family what you’re looking for. You never know who might be able to help.
Reconnect with your professional self
Create the perfect LinkedIn profile; reconnect and meet with former colleagues who remember you as your ‘professional self’. Join industry groups and attend, or volunteer at events.
Be creative and focused
Seek relevant up-to-date experience in creative ways:
- Through your contacts, propose a short project ‘work placement’
- Investigate ‘returnships’, freelance, interim or temp work, or skilled volunteering
This work fills your CV gap, builds your network and professional confidence – and may even lead to a permanent role. It will also enhance targeted applications for jobs that truly appeal and fit your strengths.
Above all, remember that you are the same capable person you were before your break – just a little out of practice.
Source: The Telegraph