One of the most common questions I get asked by mothers or carers on an extended career break is what they can be doing to improve their chances of returning to work. This is a great question and one that should be considered by anyone planning to take a significant amount of time off work if they wish to have a successful return to work.
Here are my top 8 tips to maximise your career relaunch:
1. Start Exploring New Career Options Earlier in your Career Break
Time and time again, I have clients coming to me a month or so before they wish to return to work. Many are not keen to return to work in the same capacity as they did before having a family, and therefore are keen to explore new career options. In these situations, I need to explain that career change can often be a slow process depending on how radical
he change actually is.
My best advice is to start exploring your career options much earlier in your career break. Identify the career areas that you are interested in and make the time to get out and talk to people in these areas. This will help you narrow down your options and then allow you to evaluate your skills against these options, giving you more time to upskill before you wish to return to work.
2. Research your Ideal Role
Research your ideal jobs online through job search platforms. Each advertisement will have a job outline or description as well as the required key selection criteria. This will allow you to compare your skills and qualifications to the key selection requirement and evaluate which skills you have, those that need updating and those that you need to obtain.
3. Don’t Underestimate your Current Skills
Don’t underestimate the skills you have even if you have been out of the workforce for many years. Many skills are transferable even if you are looking to change careers. Also, don’t undervalue the skills that you have acquired whilst on your career break, particularly if you have been a member of a committee or working in a volunteer capacity.
4. Update & Obtain New Skills
Once you have identified which skills need to be updated or obtained, you need to plan how you will gain these skills. Volunteering or interning is a
great way to do this. Short-courses or free/inexpensive online courses may also be a great option to gain u technical or IT skills without having to enrol in an expensive and time-consuming post-graduate course.
Attending seminars and webinars is also a great opportunity to get up to speed with industry and technology updates.
Short courses will increase your skills, boost your confidence and allow you to build new networks. Completing a short course will also signal to employers that you are pro-active and serious about relaunching your career in that particular field.
5. Volunteering and Internships
Volunteering will be more useful if it is strategic and tailored to your area of interest. Volunteering at the RSPCA will only really help your career relaunch if you wish to work with animals. If instead, you wish to work in marketing, then look for an opportunity to do an internship with the marketing department of a small business.
Volunteering will allow you to acquire additional skills, learn about a new company/industry, expand your networks and potentially open up pathways to paid work.
6. Get into the Real World and Meet People
Once you have decided to relaunch your career it is important that you get out into the real world and tell people what you are trying to do. Talk to people in your network and look for opportunities to meet with people outside your network. If you are a social worker keen to make a career change, then it is no use talking only to your social work colleagues and connections. Get out and meet new people in different industries and find out what they do.
Researching careers on the internet and applying for jobs through job search sites is rarely successful for the career changer. Getting out and meeting people face-to-face, conducting information interviews, attending short course and seminars will give you a much better chance of a successful relaunch.
7. Create a LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is a powerful tool for the relauncher. LinkedIn is fabulous for researching career options and identifying people that may be helpful to speak with about a new career area. You can also look at the profiles of people in that industry to see where they studied, what skills they have and what their pathway has been to get to their current role.
LinkedIn is also great for reconnecting with old colleagues and for expanding your networks. Don’t be afraid to contact people on LinkedIn to see if they would be willing to talk to you about their career or organisation, even a quick chat over the phone if they don’t have time to meet face-to-face.
8. Update your Resume
In many cases, individuals returning to work feel that updating their resume should be the first step in their return to work process. This may be so if you are planning to work in the same capacity as you did prior to having your career break (although you may want to check that your resume format is up-to-date).
However, if you are planning to make a complete career change, then updating your resume should be one of the later steps in the process. It is important to complete the steps identified earlier so that you can tailor your resume for your ideal role including key transferable skills that match the key selection criteria.
A successful return to work depends on a number of factors and may take some people longer than others. Try to set aside physical and mental space to work on your career change each week and most importantly, get out of the house and talk to people about what you are trying to do.