Going back to work after a career break can be daunting. You can feel nervous, unqualified and out of the loop. However, there are certain things you can do to make sure your return goes as well as possible. Discover what they are.
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People take career breaks for all sorts of reasons, from focusing on their family and travelling and volunteering, to studying, redundancy and health reasons. Some breaks can last for months or years, but the main thing is, you do intend to return to work at some point.
Taking time out from your career can be extremely beneficial.
Regardless of how long you have been away from the workplace for, it’s normal to feel both nervous and excited about returning. How you tackle any negative emotions will shape how smoothly your return goes.
It’s not uncommon for people to lose their confidence after a career break, especially when it comes to explaining it to prospective employers. It can be difficult to consider simply ‘picking up where you left off’. You could also be nervous about your break going against you.
Be clear about your strengths and skills, including any new skills you’ve gained during your career break.
When writing your CV, include the dates of your career break and the roles and responsibilities you may have had, in the same layout as your other jobs. For example:
During this time, I…
Attended networking events.
Completed a training course in…
During this time, I…
Raised £500 for the local food bank by…
Always speak about your break with pride. And having mentioned it once, don’t mention it again unless you’re asked about it. Use phrases such as:
‘As you will see, I have been out of the financial job market for five years and I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about it.’
‘In the spirit of transparency, my five-year career gap centred around raising a family.’
For more CV and interview advice read, ‘12 top tips for creating a standout cover letter and CV'.
So now you know how to reference and confidently speak about your career break in your CV and at interviews, you need to work on your self-confidence. Here are four ways to improve it:
Doing unpaid or voluntary work enables you to step back into the workplace and rediscover your skills and capabilities. What’s more, an unpaid work placement could also lead to a permanent position.
Explore learning opportunities at your local community centre or college. IT refresher courses are great if you’ve been out of work for some time, while management courses can help you return in a similar or more senior position.
Feeling anxious can put you off trying new experiences. It can also mean you avoid certain situations, like returning to work.
Anxiety is best dealt with head-on. There are lots of techniques you can use, from distracting yourself, to breathing exercises and challenging unhelpful thoughts.
If anxiety is affecting your transition back into the workplace, talk to a healthcare professional, family and friends or us. Don’t try to ignore it.
This is particularly relevant to parents, who are returning to work after raising their children or leaving somebody they previously cared for. It’s normal to experience guilt, especially if there are people at home who depend on you.
If you’re in this situation, remember the benefits of returning to work. For example, a child in nursery or school has the opportunity to socialise with children their age and learn and develop new skills. Similarly, having a professional take over your caring responsibilities may offer new opportunities to secure specialist equipment and enable you to take advantage of extra support.
There are benefits for you too. Returning to work can increase your income and boost your wellbeing – all of which will have a positive impact on other aspects of your life.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of returning to work, when all you want is for it go as smoothly as possible. Take a look at these practical actions for making sure you do have a good experience and you don’t forget about taking care of your wellbeing:
Whether you’re returning to work after a career break or unexpectedly finding yourself back in the job market following redundancy, it can be daunting. The practices that secured your last job might be slightly different from those you need to use to secure your next position.
We can help you find the right job opportunities and develop the right skills to get back into employment quickly. Get in touch with us today.
We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and the family and carers of members and students.
You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer page.
If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.
*Please note none of our other services are means-tested.