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Returning to work after a career break

Career breaks are taken for a multitude of reasons, be it something exciting, like the birth or a child or travelling, to the unexpected, such as redundancy or illness. Regardless of the reason, there will probably come a time when you realise you must go back to work – a realisation that for many, is fraught with dread.

Yet career breaks, in their many forms, are becoming increasingly commonplace – quite frankly, who hasn’t lost their job, gone travelling or had children? Thus it is nothing to be ashamed about. In fact, you’ve probably learnt some very valuable and transferable skills while on your break and may now be better equipped to work than you were previously.

Admittedly, there is a lot to bear in mind before returning to work. Here are a few considerations:

Reasons for returning: After several months, if not years, away from the workplace, returning could be quite a transition. Especially if you’re leaving little ones at home. It’s a decision that is strewn with mixed emotions. It’s essential, therefore, that you establish your reasons for returning to work before taking any other step. Whether monetary or for your own sanity, defining your reason for rejoining the employment market will help motivate you to find a job and sort out any childcare, if necessary.

Hours of work: If you still have caring responsibilities, then the chances are you’ll be searching for part-time work. It’s worth knowing that demand for part-time work has risen dramatically in recent years, thus competition for such positions is fierce. Don’t let that put you off, but do know that many employers will be operating flexible working practices now; some may even advertise the fact, if not, ask.

Flexible working allows you input into your hours and place of work provided your duties can be carried out under your proposed arrangements. Progressive companies might be happy for you to work term-time and have leave over the school holidays, or for you to work longer days but a shorter week. Maybe you can work from home, from 6am – 2pm? The increased adoption of flexible working will hopefully mean that there are more opportunities for you.

Work options: many people return to a position that they held prior to the break, though the nature of the role may have changed, not to mention the team. If the thought of returning to the same company doesn’t provoke feelings of delight, then there’s no reason why you can’t look elsewhere. Why not take this chance to try a new direction? Few people get the opportunity to change career, this could be your chance to start afresh.

If you’re searching for office work, temping via an agency could be a good way to find work quickly and ease yourself back into employment, without too much of a commitment. Many temp positions eventually lead to permanent employment, so could be a great opportunity to get a foot in the door of a new company.

Alternatively, you may decide you would rather be your own boss. Increasing numbers of people have opted for self-employment in recent years, discovering huge job satisfaction along the way. Unfortunately, starting a whole new business takes time and money, but an easier, less financially-demanding option could be found in franchising. Becoming a franchisee gives individuals the freedom to run their own business, but the product, the policies and marketing already exist. There are all sorts of franchise opportunities for sale, with one bound to suit your professional expertise and/or interests.

Your CV: The majority of employers will request your CV and/or seek references as part of the selection process. Typically speaking, any gap in an employment history of two months or more ought to be explained, so explain it – but not in too much detail. Dates and the nature of the break should be sufficient if your CV is well-written. It should be tailored to the individual job and illustrate clearly where you have experience that matches the employer’s job description. If you feel you gained certain skills while on your career break, then by all means, outline those too if they are relevant. They might include prioritisation, negotiation and communication skills, at the very least. Not all experience must be work-related.

Refresh your skills: If you’ve been away from the job scene for a while, you might want to consider refreshing your skills or gaining new ones, to make your CV that bit more appealing. This doesn’t have to be done via a defined course at college; if you’re not that academic; volunteering can provide the opportunity to learn vocational skills, such as leadership, cooking and admin duties. Not only will your CV look all the more impressive for the boost, but it could also increase your confidence when job-hunting.

Returning to work can be daunting, but it can also be incredibly exciting. Just think about the social interactions, the buzz of the city, the compensation and professional satisfaction that you could gain. It’s probably fair to say that around half the population will take a break at some point, so providing you are sufficiently prepared, there’s no reason why returning to work after a career break should be feared.