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Returning to Work After a Break (part 1)

Whatever your motivation for taking a career break, be it to go travelling, a change in family circumstances or any other reason, it can seem daunting heading back into the world of work. Your mind may have switched off from the pressures of professional working life and you may have grown accustomed to a completely different lifestyle. Don’t worry, if you have decided to return to work there is nothing to fear. Here are some tips to help you get back into the swing of things.

Whatever your motivation for taking a career break, be it to go travelling, a change in family circumstances or any other reason, it can seem daunting heading back into the world of work. Your mind may have switched off from the pressures of professional working life and you may have grown accustomed to a completely different lifestyle. Don’t worry, if you have decided to return to work there is nothing to fear. Here are some tips to help you get back into the swing of things.

Be clear about what’s important to you now

Before you start getting ready to return to work, think about your priorities as they may have changed. Useful questions to ask include:

  • Do you still want to do the same type of work that you did before?
  • Do you want a career change?
  • What hours do you want to work?
  • How flexible can you be?
  • Do you need to work close to home?
  • Are you looking for a good work-life balance and if so, what do you need from your next role to help you achieve this?

Speak to others that have done it
If you have friends or family members that have returned to work after a break, it’s worth talking to them about their experiences and how they approached it. They may be able to offer some pointers.

Jane Digby, Marketing Manager at Allen Associates, remembers coming back to work after taking a year off for maternity leave. She said: “I lost a lot of confidence in that year. I remember being worried about how I was going to handle the early mornings and I felt really insecure about my capabilities. I was lucky as I was returning to the same job and team but it still felt really daunting. I knew that I would be expected to be up and running straight away yet I hadn’t used my brain properly for a year!

“I would recommend researching as much as you can about the career and sector you want to return to. One of the biggest issues you face is being left behind as technology or processes move on, so make sure that you read up on market trends by following industry newsletters or blogs. It really helped me get back into the working mind set.

“I would also recommend doing an online course in your current or new chosen profession. If you are returning to the same place then you may find that they do “Keep in Touch” days or you could arrange some time with your boss to get a feel for what has changed. Don't be scared. Your skills are not as out of date as you might think plus those that you gained during your time away from a career are transferable.”

Practice, Practice, Practice!
Volunteering is also a good way to ease yourself back into the work environment, and makes it much less of a culture shock when you get a job.

Jane explained: “I took on a volunteering marketing role when I was made redundant to keep my skills up. It not only gave me some great experience and an insight into a different sector but also made me feel great that I was giving something back to the community by using my skills for a good cause.”

You can find information on volunteering in Oxfordshire here.

Start networking
If you are looking for a new opportunity then social networking is an important avenue but make sure that your online profile is up to date before potential employers view it. It would be worth explaining why you took a break if you can and then focus on adding some points about the other skills that you have developed during that time. Communication, time management, negotiation and organisation are all vital attributes in the workplace. This LinkedIn online course will help you with setting up your profile and making the most of it to sell yourself to future employers.

Don’t set yourself up for a fall!
When returning to work it can be easy to fall into a trap by thinking, “I don’t mind what I do or where I work” and trawl online sites for any job you could do that is flexible, local and hopefully pays enough. It is tempting to fire off lots of job applications but this is risky. Employers will see that you are not serious about working there and after receiving lots of “No thank you” letters you may be left feeling demoralised.

Support is out there
If you have lost confidence or would simply welcome some practical advice or a helping hand, try using a good recruitment agency. The right recruiter will take the time to get to know you and will provide advice and support. They will also make life a bit easier for you by working hard on your behalf to match you with the right job and the right employer. They will know which employers will be flexible if you are after different hours, want to work from home or would prefer a job share and they will do their best to promote you and help you get what you want.

Read Returning to Work After a Break (part 2)
If you need some advice, why not speak to one of our friendly recruitment consultants who will spend the time getting to know you so that they can match you up with the right role.

In my next blog, I will be providing advice on CVs and interviews which may come in handy, particularly if you’ve been out of work for a long time. Watch this space!

Kate Allen

Kate Allen

Kate founded Allen Associates in 1998 out of a determination to build a recruitment business which delivered a bespoke service centred on the needs of clients and candidates.

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