When you’ve had a career break, it can be tough breaking back into the world of work. Here are some tips from Ten2Two, the flexible and part-time recruiter in the south of England, around what you can do to make yourself more marketable to employers.
Deborah O’Sullivan, Managing Director at Ten2Two, says, “There are a few common things that everyone feels when they’ve been out of the workplace, regardless of the duration. But in reality, a six-month gap is not the same as a ten year plus gap.
Yes, it’s a tougher proposition if you’ve had a long career break, but it isn’t impossible. The trick is to make yourself as marketable to employers as possible. You can do this by being current, clear and relevant.”
Before you start your job search, you need to do some thinking. You’re trying to remind yourself of what working was like and why you did it and what you enjoyed about it. If you can create a picture around this in your head, hopefully this will motivate you to approach your new job search with vigour.
- Are you sure you want to return? Have you done the thinking required? For example, consider what have you been doing in your break, what were you doing before and what you enjoyed most about working? What did you dislike around the industry, job content?
- Within that, think, how many working years have you got left? What does your next career period look like? Look for the end game; if you have another twenty-five years of working, it’s worth investing time and even money in working out where you want to be. For example, some people return to work and do the first thing that comes along, and then they regret that later.
- Not sure where to go next? If you’re stuck with what you want to do, we would strongly suggest investing in a career coach. For some people, it will be obvious what you want to do, but for others, it can be a real challenge to work out how to use your hard-won skills for the future.
Be realistic about your position
If you’re a qualified accountant but you haven’t touched any figure work for ten years, you‘re not going to be that marketable. You can’t always pick up where you left off after a long break.
Think about ways you can appear more attractive to employers – do you need to take a training course, do some volunteering or find a mentor to help make your skills more current? Remember – the job market you’re going to be in competing in has people currently doing the job.
Seek advice, do your research
Basically, put yourself ‘out there’. Talk to recruiters, get in touch with ex-colleagues, or talk to business people generally. Read industry magazines, see what’s going on out there and get a picture of what’s going on. Then decide what you want to do.
Set your goal
What is your path going to be? This is the hardest bit to work out, but being clear on what you’re looking for will help focus your job search and identify actions you need to take. Some options are:
- Same job, same industry.
If you’ve kept your hand in and you’re up to date on your previous job and industry, the only barrier here is employers seeing a long break. Reassure the recruiter and make sure your CV reflects that fact that you’re up to date with evidence based facts.
- Work your way up.
You stay in the same industry as before, with the same sort of job but you return into a lower position with a view to getting your skills back up to date and moving up the career ladder again. This is probably the simplest, cheapest way to get back into work.
- Different job, same industry.
A slightly harder move but your industry knowledge will help getting to grips with a new role. You may need to retrain or work shadow or work at a slightly lower level than before.
- Different job, different industry.
You have a complete change to what you did before. You could retrain, possibly volunteer or find an internship where you can get some on-the-job training or educational training. While a career change is not impossible, you will be up against graduates who have the same level of knowledge as you or people who have been doing the job twenty years, so you will probably have to compromise on salary to get that career change. However, if you’re restarting your career for the next 20 years, go for it!
Make your CV reflect your choices
Your CV needs to be clear and relevant for whatever job you’re applying for. Your CV shouldn’t leave any unanswered questions for the reader. Put a simple line to say you’ve had a career break with dates and if there is something relevant that you did in that time, put it in.
If you’re applying for a book keeper role, this could be ‘running the finances for the PTA’.
Be careful not to put things in for the sake of looking like you’ve been busy. Employers are only interested in relevant skills.
Get relevant training
If you feel there are gaps in your knowledge, now’s the time to put that right. Employers want to see that you’re up to date. For example, if you haven’t been in the work place, you need to make it explicit on your CV that you’re up to date with technology.
Add a line stating ‘Proficient with all Microsoft packages’. If you’re not, get up to date, take a course. Then put it on your CV.
Put it out there
We always say, once you know you want something, get your message out there. Networking is your friend here: you never know who might know someone who can help you. Your neighbour could even provide inspiration – put your message out there and you’ll be amazed what it could lead to.
LinkedIn is super important
Everyone needs to be active on LinkedIn these days. Build your profile by connecting with everyone you know. Then ask to connect with people in the industry you want to be in. Follow their articles and comment or like their publications. Update your status and connect with relevant recruiters. It all helps to boost visibility and increase your knowledge. Many jobs are advertised here too.
Check out Sherry’s LinkedIn Kickstart if LinkedIn is not (yet) your thing: LinkedIn training in bite-sized chunks to help you get back into the job market and land your dream job after a career break.
Look up returnships
Employers have got wise to the talent they can unlock by encouraging returners back into the workplace. Similar to internships, lots of London companies offer returnship programmes designed to help people returning to work get up-to-date experience with the potential prospect of a permanent position at the end of a fixed term.
Don’t give up
Getting back into the workplace after a ten-year gap or longer will take time. Set yourself a six month or 12-month goal where you aim to see your career plan come to fruition. But remember, it can take baby steps. Don’t give up, give it time and most of all, see it as a process. Good luck!
Even if you’re not in the South, they have an interesting blog about flexible working and career matters and they share good tips to help with CV writing and interviews.
Real life story
For a real-life story of a woman who went back to work after a long career break, read Sarah’s story here.
p.s. If you liked this, you’ll love Job Search Confidence, a structured job search support programme delivered in bite-sized tasks inside a private community with live group calls and my personal feedback on your CV and LinkedIn profile.