February 2nd, 2021

Create Your Future: how to return to work after a multi-year career break

As a woman who has managed to successfully return to work after a multi-year career break, I wanted to share my story and my experiences with the aim of helping other women gain the confidence to get back into the workplace. Perhaps you have taken a long career break to care for your children, taken time out from a high-pressure role or to relocate overseas with your family.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take a 4 year career break; during which I moved from London to Doha to Singapore to Dubai, had our second daughter and started a successful side-hustle business. This period in my life provided me with experiences I will forever cherish and a whole host of new skills and connections. Here are my tips for leaping back into the corporate world!

Step 1: What are your motivations?

· Take time to clarify your motivations for going back to work and clearly set out your career goals

· Decide what boundaries you want or need to set yourself; your priorities will have likely changed since you were last in the workplace

· Be realistic about how many days or hours can commit to and list areas that you are willing to be flexible on to achieve this

· Reconnect with your professional self; a career break can change your sense of identity or diminish your view of yourself. Remember you are the same capable person you always were!

Step 2: The Application process

· If it’s been a while since you last updated your CV read my blog How to Optimise Your CV

· Ensure you have optimised your LinkedIn: have a professional headshot photo, a catchy title and an achievements & personality driven introduction profile, list your responsibilities & achievements under each job and ask previous managers for recommendations or to endorse your skills.

· Don’t try to hide your career break or make excuses as this may lead to you missing out on opportunities. Be factual and upfront, include the dates of your break in your CV, along with any freelancing, volunteering or studies you have conducted during that period.

· Networking is vital, you never know which conversation a job lead will come from, be open to speaking to as many new people as possible.

· Get a great recruiter on your side; someone who is an expert in your field. Their contacts, advice and market knowledge will be a vital resource & support in your search.

· Identify a wishlist of target employers and do all you can to get your CV infront of the most senior person in the division you desire to join. You can do this by either approaching them on LinkedIn, or the old-fashioned way by calling the company to ask for their email address!

Step 3: Gather Confidence

· Tackle imposter syndrome: this whole process may feel daunting, however remember that you are not a fraud! You bring a wealth of experience; your skills haven’t gone away and you have gained numerous positive behaviours during your break that are invaluable to an employer

· Gain self-confidence: look to join a group such as the #IamRemarkable Google initiative which empowers women and underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond.

· Find a support network to keep you inspired, either connect with a friend going through a similar experience or your local women’s networking group

Step 4: The Interview Process

· Learn to tell your story using the “Career Break Sandwich” method during interviews: don’t start or end with your career break. Establish credibility by starting your “sandwich” with your career history & achievements. Move on to talk about your career break in simple & factual terms: you don’t need to justify your break, however do mention any volunteering/ time abroad/ study that has added to your skills. Finally finish your “sandwich” with what you are looking to do now in your career and why.

· Don’t sell yourself short: returners are seen by many progressive employers as a valuable untapped talent pool, hold your nerve and hunt for an employer who will value your abilities.

· Stand firm on the boundaries you have set yourself, be vocal about how many hours or days you are able to work: there is no need to justify your reasons, simply state your availability then stop talking! More companies are prioritising family-friendly working policies and flexible working conditions.

· Set realistic salary expectations but never undersell yourself. If asked at interview for your desired salary, simply state that you are looking for the current market rate.

Stay motivated, remember that you can do it: you have before and you will again! I hope these first steps will inspire you to take charge in shaping your future.

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