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How to go back to work after a career break

How to return to work after a career break

Whatever your reasons for taking a career break, there is no reason why you can't jump straight back into the job market when you are ready to.

Want to know how to do it? Follow these simple tips and make the move back into work a whole lot easier.





Assess your situation

Before you start getting ready to return to work, it's worth having a think about your situation. Potential employers will ask why you took the break, what you did and also why you want to come back. Consider your answers to these questions. They aren't trick questions but if you don't think about how you would answer them, you can quickly look suspect.

Another thing to consider is what type of work you want to do. Don't just start applying in a panic, think about the hours, location and sector of your next employment. Again, if an employer doesn't think you are serious about the application, they will assume you are preparing to take another break and so will focus on another candidate.


Get ready to return

Research as much as you can about the career and sector you want to return to. The biggest obstacle people face after having a career break is being left behind as technology or processes move on, so ensure you know about all the market trends.

A simple way to get this information is to sign up for industry newsletters or follow blogs. This way you can have a small daily dose of news, which quickly adds up to a lot of knowledge.

Before you start down the social networking route, check that you would be happy for potential employers to see your online profiles. If not, clean up or delete.

Volunteering is also a good way to ease yourself back into the work environment, and when you get a job it won't be such a culture shock. But if you are claiming benefits, make sure you check to see if there are any limitations on what you can do.


Work your CV

If your career break was a significant amount of time, it will look odd if you don't include some information about what you got up to on your CV. If you didn't have any employment, include a 'relevant experience' section. Ensure that anything listed is tied in with a desirable characteristic for an employee. Alternatively, if you were incredibly busy, list events as if they were a job, summarising what skills you learnt along the way.

The experience and skills you gained before the break are important too, so ensure you highlight them. Make sure you really emphasise your achievements, it doesn't matter if they took place a year ago, you still achieved it.

If the gaps in your CV make you uncomfortable, try using a functional CV format instead. This focuses on skills and experience rather than dates of job titles. This isn't for everyone, so do some research first.

Need some help? We’ve got CV templates for career breaks here.


Nail the cover letter

It's important to say from the get-go that you had a career break. Explain why you took it and why you want to come back.

If you are returning to the same career, say you can't wait to return to what you love doing. If you are embarking on a new career, emphasise how you are excited about the new challenge. Be clear that you know this is what you want to do, and that you have fully considered it.

If you can start immediately, make sure you include that in your cover letter too.

Need help with your cover letter? We’ve got free downloadable templates that are ideal for you.


The interview

The biggest hurdle you have is convincing the interviewers that you aren't going to pack up and leave. You need to show lasting commitment.

If it wasn't your choice to have the break, maybe you had to look after a relative or suffered illness, always be positive. Did you overcome something personal? Maybe learnt a new skill while on the break? These are all positive endings to what can be sad beginnings.

Be succinct when talking about the reason for the break, and always divert attention to your previous work experience. However, one common pitfall made when returning to work is talking about your life before the break as if it was centuries ago. Obviously it is in the past, but don't labour the point. Rather than referring to years, just refer to the task. You don't want to highlight how long you have been away from the workforce.

It's important for anyone to research the company they are interviewing for, but this is especially important when it comes to career breaks. You need to prove that you are as sharp as someone who has been doing the job continuously, and that you know all there is to know about the company and the sector they are in.

Employees just want you to demonstrate that you are ready, willing and able to do the job. Gaps only become a problem if they aren't explained. Don't apologise about it – confidence it key.


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