Returning to work after a career break

It isn’t easy returning to work after a break of any kind, whether it’s maternity leave, sickness absence, or even an extra long vacation. But being out of the workplace for years (sometimes several) can mean that returning is a really scary and daunting decision to make. Many women feel worried that changes in the work place will have left them behind, as well as the knock on effect of their confidence levels.

I’ve just done this recently. I decided to return to the field of Human Resources after six years away as a SAHM, the main reasons of which are listed here. And of course I felt anxious and incredibly nervous as to whether I could do the job or not – as well as wondering whether it was a profession I would still enjoy after all this time. Many, many swirling thoughts went through my head.

But, it’s actually really surprising how quickly skills return to you and how fast you retain new information. With my big lifestyle change I am also shocked at how well I have adapted to my new working life.

If you are retuning to the workplace soon, or considering going back after a long break, then my top tips are listed below:

Get your CV up to date

It’s amazing how much you remember once you write it down and see it in print. Many employers still also like to see a CV before offering an interview. And don’t be afraid of the career break in there – make sure you put it into the CV and use the opportunity to demonstrate the skills and positive experiences that you gained during your time out. Don’t forget LinkedIn too – this is a really big social network for businesses and a chance to make connections with employers and people in the industry who may be interested in talking to you.

Let people know you want a job

Talk to your friends and family and let people know you’re looking. Networking and sharing such information can be useful in getting back into the workplace. Talk to agencies who specialise in your field of work; they will have key contacts and may be able to find you your dream job.

Don’t expect too much from yourself

It isn’t easy returning to the workplace after having a baby/children – it can really affect your confidence as you adjust to a new way of working life. Take your time and don’t be pressured into trying to catch up too quickly or feel as though you should know everything within a few weeks. Be honest with your employer and keep an open dialogue about any struggles you may have, such as childcare, learning a new skill or working with a team.

Don’t feel guilty

Whatever your arrangements (full-time, part-time, term-time hours etc) don’t beat yourself up about your current situation. Do try and make it work as best you can but don’t feel bad if you have tough days (hey, we all do). I tend to only focus on motherhood when I am at home on my non-working days, and then on work when I am in the office. This can often be a real challenge but as long as I try my best I simply can’t do any more.

Modern day careers

One last piece of advice is that jobs aren’t ‘for life’ anymore and many modern women’s careers are taking turns, breaks, changes and moves. Be open to trying new jobs/tasks too rather than being intent on returning to exactly what you did previously. Also, try not to plan your career too far in advance because you never know who you’ll come across or meet and opportunity often comes when we least expect.

Jess Soothill
Jess Soothill

Jess is a Mum of boy & girl twins and a Head of HR in Telecoms.
Jess likes coffee, sunshine and a good quote.

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