How to Prepare for Work After a Career Break

Posted on: 8 Jun 2018

There’s more to returning to work than firing off multiple online applications. In this guide we give you the insights to save you from rejection hell.

Be Honest With Yourself

Re-joining the workforce triggers a mixture of emotions. Excitement. Fear. Nervousness. Hope. Be honest with yourself about how you feel and try to understand what’s causing these reactions so you can work through any concerns before you hit the interview.

Not only will this help you decide whether you really are ready to return to work but it will help you prepare for the inevitable questions about your career break from prospective employers. They will want to know:

  • why you took a break
  • what you did
  • why you want to come back
  • why you want this job in particular

Be prepared to answer these questions well before the interview as you’ll need to explain your situation in your covering letter.

This is also a good opportunity to take the time to consider the kind of work you want to do. Although it can be tempting to apply for everything and anything, step back, assess your options and find the right options for you.

Go Forth and Network

If you left your last employer on good terms and would like to go back, why not give them a call to see if they have any suitable openings? You’ll have a foot in the door already if your track record is strong making this a simple way to hook your next role.

It’s also a great opportunity to ask previous clients and employers for references ahead of your first application. And hearing about how great you are will do wonders for your self-confidence.

Prepare for any conversations by outlining your work history:

  • start by highlighting your career achievements and experience
  • place your career break in the middle of your story
  • move on to your career break
  • end with what you’re looking for now

If you’ve been away from work for some time, it’s worth refreshing (or creating) your LinkedIn profile. This will also help you connect with former colleagues and clients and will remind you of your professional self and everything you’re capable of.

Make it clear on your profile that you’re seeking work and it’s likely that you’ll be contacted by recruiters with suitable jobs.

Ensure you work with an agency that values your long-term career aspirations over a short-term bums-on-seats mentality. This way you’ll be matched with roles that are a good fit and that are more likely to see you succeed.

Seek Career Returner Programmes

If the professional version of you feels like a distant memory, joining a career returner programme can be a great way forward.

There are plenty out there including:

Timing not right for one of these programmes? Then create your own:

  • Ask your contacts to give you a short project work placement for a week or two
  • Investigate freelance, interim, temp or volunteering options.

Either of these options will get you back out into the real world, fill any gaps in your CV and boost your confidence ready for your first interview. If all goes well you might even find yourself on the receiving end of a job offer.

Create the Perfect CV

Before you even start to refresh your CV it’s important to gain a clear view of your strengths. It can be easy to forget your skills which often leads people to undervalue themselves.

These tricks will help you remember everything you can bring to an employer:

  • write down at least five of your greatest professional achievements and the skills it took to deliver them
  • ask friends and family for feedback and examples demonstrating what you’re good at
  • complete an online assessment tool like Strengthsfinder for an outside opinion
  • get back into the swing of things by reading industry news and following potential employers on social media

When you’re ready, update your CV making the most of any skills or experience you’ve gained during your career break.

Nail Your Cover Letter

Your covering letter is the first impression you’ll make on a prospective employer. Be clear from the outset that you’ve had a career break, what you did during that time and why you’re seeking a return to work.

Going back to the same career? Let your potential employer know you’re excited about returning.

Going for a new direction? Be clear that you’re certain this is what you want to do, why and how you’re a good match including transferable skills.

Prepare for a Polished Interview

If you love talking about yourself and singing your praises then the interview will be no problem. But if interviews make you more nervous than a turkey at a christmas you need to prepare.

Your biggest challenge is convincing the interviewer that you aren’t going to pack up and leave for the same reasons that led you to take a career break in the first place.

Be succinct when talking about your time away from work and find the value gained from your hiatus: perhaps you learned a new skill, had to budget more carefully or discovered new insights and compassion.

Make the skills relatable to your new role and keep bringing in your previous experience to show how you’re a great fit. As you do, focus on your expertise – not the time period you haven’t used it for – and use examples that showcase everything you did.

This will make the interviewer feel confident you will be able to bring your experience to bear in the new role.

If you’re considering a return to work, get in touch with We Are Adam today.

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