Returning to work after a career break can be completely daunting.  However, there are key steps that you can take to ensure that your return to work is less stressful.

I recently had a great career discussion with a client, Rachel, who had been on a substantial career break of more than 10 years.  Rachel is the mum of three children with her youngest starting school in 2019, freeing her up to “relaunch” her own career. Rachel’s husband has always had a demanding job requiring long hours and weekend work but the trade-off has been that he is well paid.  As a result Rachel has been able to focus on raising the children and hasn’t been employed since before her first child was born over ten years ago. A lot has changed in the past decade when it comes to job search, networking and interviewing and understandably Rachel was feeling apprehensive about putting herself out there again.

Many mothers I speak to about returning to work are in a similar situation to Rachel and the fear of getting started can create a really “stuck” feeling.  One woman told me she felt almost paralyzed every time she even thought about returning to work as she had no idea where to start.  This feeling of apprehension doesn’t only apply to women who have been out of work raising a family but can also apply to men and women who have been made redundant or have even taken six months off for personal reasons such as to care for an elderly relative or to relocate to a new home.

If you take on board these 8 tips for staying current during your career break, then you will feel more confident returning to work and it won’t seem like such a daunting task.

  • Tip 1 – Start Exploring Career Options Early

Time and time again, I have clients coming to me a month or so before they wish to return to work.  Many do not wish to return to their “pre-kids” career, and are therefore required to explore new career options that are less stressful and have a better work/life balance.   In these situations I need to explain that career change can be a slow process, often taking between 6 to 12 months, depending on how radical the change actually is.

My best advice is to start exploring your career options 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, allow you to evaluate your skills against these options and give you more time to upskill before you wish to return to work.

  •  Tip 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 requirements and evaluate which skills you have, those that need updating and those that you need to obtain.

A career break is a perfect time to study some online courses, many of which are free, to develop new skills to make yourself more marketable when returning to the job market.

Some great free or very inexpensive online courses can be found at Alison.com, Coursera and Udemy to name just a few.

  •  Tip 3 – Don’t Underestimate your Current Skills

Don’t under-estimate 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, working as a volunteer or raising a family (try negotiating skills for one).

  • Tip 4 – Use the opportunity to 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 as well as attending seminars and/or webinars to get you 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.

  • Tip 5 – Take up any opportunity for 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 relaunch if you wish to work with animals.  If 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.

  • Tip 6 – Get into the Real World and Meet People

Once you have decided to relaunch your career it is important that you get 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.

Unfortunately 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.

  •  Tip 7 – Create a LinkedIn Profile and use it for 10 mins every day

LinkedIn is a powerful must-have 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.  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 re-connecting 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.

More importantly spending 10 minutes on LinkedIn every day will ensure you stay current of company changes, job changes and other events taking place in your industry.  My keeping up-to-date with changes in your company or industry you won’t feel so out of the loop when you return to work after your break.

  • Tip 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.  However, if you are planning to make a career change, 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 tell people what you are trying to do.

In conclusion, returning to work can be a very daunting and intimidating process.  However, following the tips outlined above will ensure that you stay current, maintain networks and return to work with more confidence.

If you would like to discuss what you can be doing to stay current on your career break, contact Leah Lambart at leah@relaunchme.com.au to have a chat about how you can best prepare for your future return to work.