How to Return to Work After A Career Break

Want to return to work this year? Here are 4 simple things you can do to make it easier.

September is traditionally a time for new starts. The mood is set by the end of the summer holidays and by children starting, or returning to, nursery or school. But this is also a time for new starts for parents, with many parents hoping to return to work in the autumn.

Perhaps you have been on a family career break for some time, or perhaps you are just hoping to return to something new after your maternity leave. Whatever your circumstances, Career Expert Kath Sloggett of Runneth has some simple tips to get you started.

Start talking about your next job

Research consistently shows that over 85% of jobs are never advertised, instead they are filled through informal networks.  And yet, most job searchers spend most (or all) of their time trawling recruitment websites or contacting recruitment consultants chasing the 15% of jobs that are advertised.

So, how do we harness the power of informal networks?  It’s simple. We begin by talking about what job we want next.

I usually recommend creating a one sentence description of your desired next role, and practising it until it feels natural. It must be short, so that someone who hears it once can remember it and repeat it.

Here are some real life examples that have worked for my return to work coaching clients:

  • “I want to use my legal background to work in-house for an education or children’s welfare organisation.”
  • “I’m looking for a part-time role in a creative office environment.”

Let the people around you know what you are looking for and they will multiply your personal search efforts.  Our friends and family are usually happy to help us, they often just don’t know what we are looking for – or, less helpfully, they make assumptions based on what our last role was.  Give them the information they need to help you.

Meet an ex-colleague for a coffee

While it might feel like a bit of a distraction, meeting up with an ex-colleague has many benefits for job searchers.

First, it helps you prepare for returning to work in practical ways.  Where are you going to meet? What are you going to wear? Do you need a haircut? How will you get there? Do you need any childcare?  While this may all sound somewhat frivolous, it can take a lot of the stress out of your next meeting – which could be with a potential employer or a recruitment consultant.  Better you discover that you have lost your favourite work shoes now, on this low-risk practise run with an ex-colleague, rather than before an important meeting.

Secondly, it will help kick start your work brain.  It might have been merely months ago that you left work, or years: most people start to forget the details of what they did, the technical names and project names, the specific magnitude of achievements, and the funny anecdotes.  All of this is what you need at the front of your mind for updating your CV and for shining at your next job interview.  You will sound more current too, even if you perhaps don’t feel it.

Thirdly, it will boost your confidence as you’ll be reminded how amazing you were in your last role.  Your ex-colleague will likely remember you as a dynamic team member, and they (hopefully!) haven’t seen you as a bleary-eyed parent in the playground.

And finally, by refreshing your contact with your ex-colleague you may find that they are a potential source of useful information going forward.  Even if you are considering changing careers, you could ask  questions about other colleagues who have left such as “what have they  gone on to do next?” This person might also act as a referee for you for a future employer and could provide a relevant endorsement for you on LinkedIn.

Create a professional email address

This is a five minute job that you can do today – or tonight after bedtime.

If you are currently using a non-professional sounding email address – maybe something like [email protected] or [email protected], or even (as I have encountered) using what is clearly your partner’s personal email address – now is the time to set up your personal email account.  It’s free and easy, using Gmail, Google email system.

Try to set up your account using [email protected] or [email protected].  You may need to add a middle initial or add a location after your name if you have a common name.  Recruiters universally agree that Gmail addresses are the best option – the expected default option – especially in contrast to Hotmail and Yahoo where inconsistent endings can cause problems (eg .co.uk vs .com).

Use your new email address on your CV, on your LinkedIn profile, and on any work-related emails or applications.

Update your profile pictures

Groan… I know! This is not anyone’s favourite task but it is a must for all job searchers.  No matter what type of job search you undertake, at some point you will need to meet someone you have never met before – or haven’t seen for a while.  Make it easy on them and provide a clear photo on your LinkedIn profile so they will recognise you when they see you.

LinkedIn is the most important photo, since it is likely to be the first page that comes up when someone googles your name. You should also do a quick check to ensure that your Facebook and WhatsApp profile pictures, plus any other public images, are suitable for a potential future employer to see.

Aim for a photograph that shows you looking friendly and approachable (“would I like to have a coffee with this person?”) rather than too ‘professional’ looking.

Follow our four easy tips and you’ll have taken those key first steps towards finding your return to work role.  With the summer behind us, now is the time to get cracking! Good luck and please get in touch with your success stories, we’d love to know how you get on with your return to work.

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