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Six tips if you’re starting your job hunt for the first time in years

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

There are many reasons to take time out from work, from caring for family to experiencing the world on a sabbatical or giving yourself time to reassess after redundancy. If you’re thinking about returning after a period of months or years, you’re not alone.

Research from PwC suggests that around 427,000 UK female professionals, who are currently on a career break, want to get back into the workplace in the future – and that’s not to mention others who may not be represented in this cross-section of society. Although the thought of applying for positions for the first time in a while can feel daunting, many Employers are incredibly supportive and keen to tap into a ‘hidden’ talent market comprising of skilled Employees with plenty of valid expertise. Here’s what to consider:

Stay connected

A common fear for those returning to work is that they have been ‘out of touch’ with new developments, trends and changes to their profession. In interviews, it can be difficult to answer questions which rely on supplying a current example of how you’ve demonstrated particular skills. To avoid this, stay connected with your industry by reading the latest news, noticing areas in which you need to develop your knowledge and potentially reskill. Once you’re ready to start applying for jobs, consider stepping up your networking efforts, attending events or even applying for a short course to demonstrate how you’re going above and beyond in your bid to keep your expertise up to date.

Be honest about your career break

Whatever your reason for taking time out, this should be made clear to potential Employers. As an applicant, you’re looking for a company who understands your position and will support you back into work. If you’re able to have an honest conversation with a hiring manager who is communicative and flexible, you know you’ve found the right place to join. So, whatever your background, don’t be afraid to share the story behind your career break. Of course, you don’t need to share personal or sensitive details, but a brief explanation of why you decided to hit the pause button will help to give a better picture of you, and your unique needs as a Candidate.

Be confident

Having confidence in yourself and your abilities will give you the fire in your belly to chase job opportunities and convince Employers that you’re a great Candidate to hire. To do this, take some time out for self-reflection, to recognise the many things you can bring to the roles you’re applying for. Research into workplace returners from the Government Equalities Office (GEO) found only a quarter of these re-enter employment at a higher level than the one at which they left. With this in mind, it’s important to know your worth – to decide on what you’re aiming for in your job including what you expect to be paid. If you’ve done your research into local salaries, holding onto this knowledge and your goals for the future will make it easier when deciding which positions to apply for and accept.

Embrace new developments

If you find your profession a different world compared to when you took your career break, turn this into a positive, looking for new ways to use your skills. It could be that these changes open new avenues or routes for you to explore. Technological advancements in particular have had an incredible effect on many different industries, often creating completely different positions or areas of expertise. Many roles, such as social media manager, app designer or podcast producer simply didn’t exist ten years ago. Recognising this, and demonstrating a willingness to adapt will, of course, help to make you stand out during the application process. When you see a position advertised and you’re not sure what it entails, take the time to check the requirements – it could that you have many useful and transferable skills to offer.

Seek advice from your network

In order to start your job hunt, you need to be sure of what you’re looking for. It may be tempting to apply for the first position you see, but is this what you’d like in the long term? Although it’s good to explore your options, if you’re unsure about the role you’re applying for, this is likely to come across in interview. Whether you’re looking to re-enter your existing profession or making a career change and opting for a completely different area of work, always seek advice from friends, family, old work colleagues and consider using a recruitment agency. Job hunting can be stressful, so don’t be tempted to ‘go it alone’. Listen to others who can tell you if you’re heading in the right direction, and make sure you get the right support to enable your success.

Update your CV

Once you decide you’re ready to start searching for employment, your first move should be to check and re-draft your CV. After all, when you take a career break, you don’t stop learning. If you’ve opted for a sabbatical for example, you’ll have many new experiences to add. Having taken time out, it’s likely that you’ll have changed as a person in terms of your aims and goals. So, it’s important to look at your CV with fresh eyes, to make sure it really reflects you and the type of job you’re applying for. To catch the attention of hiring managers, create a document which clearly highlights your best personal attributes and passions, demonstrating how you could be an excellent fit within their team.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent Recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 we opened our first London office, to service Clients and Candidates in the capital.

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