How can I return to work after a career break?

Wed, 01/02/2012 - 12:52 -- nick

Getting back to work after a significant break can seem very daunting. Many people who find themselves in this position just don't know where to begin and are often faced with barriers that other jobseekers don't come across.
There are many reasons for taking a break from your career, but generally they fall under voluntary, such as taking an extended holiday, or involuntary, for example experiencing redundancy. The third category contains women looking to resume a career after maternity leave.
All situations require slightly adapted job search tactics, so take a look below to see how to make your return to the market a successful one.
Voluntary breaks
It's likely you've made the decision to return either because you're run out of money or you're finished your soul searching and are now ready to dive head first into your career. It's up to you to show potential employers that you're now ready to commit to a job as initially they may be thinking you're likely to disappear again a few months into the role.
This is pretty easy to get across in a CV – you'll need to make it very clear in your opening statement that your intention is to find a job in which you can grow and that your time off has confirmed that this is the direction you want your career to take. Whether you're telling the truth or not is a different matter. If you are just planning to work until you save up for a flight back to Bondi Beach, it's up to you and your morals whether you go for a temporary or permanent job.
If your voluntary time off was to undertake a new qualification this should go a long way to persuading an employer you have a thirst for knowledge and will be of value to their company. If there's no obvious connection, be sure to point out how the course you took will help you succeed in the role you're applying for.
Involuntary breaks
As with anything you do that wasn't your decision, there's a good chance that you'll be feeling pretty unenthusiastic about the time you had off. Try and look at the positives as there's nothing worse for recruiters that reading a CV that comes across as negative or apologetic – they're looking to hire people with the energy to drive their business forward, not dwell on past problems or difficulties.
Explain how you overcame whatever situation caused you to take time off. Did you find an added inner strength that you never knew existed? Did you use your time off to learn a new skill that will be of benefit to the job? Unless you spent months on a sofa flicking channels, you're likely to have achieved something during your time off that will impress a new employer so make sure you focus on that area.
If redundancy or a sacking was the reason you were out of work, be straight (but not over-descriptive) with the reasons. It's very easy for any lies to be uncovered when your references are checked and you could find yourself being unemployed for much longer than originally expected if you're found out.
Returning after maternity
Whether you've just had your first child, have a couple of young children at primary school, or have older children that have flown the nest, you're personal situation is unique - as are your reasons for wanting to get back to work.
One thing many women returners often have to overcome is a lack of confidence, which is surprising considering childbirth and looking after young children are two of the hardest tasks anyone will ever have to undertake.
The key to making sure you're a first class applicant for the jobs you want is matching your skills with the ones requested in the job description, and these skills don't necessarily have to have been developed in a business environment. Communication, time management, negotiation and organisation are all vital attributes in the workplace and you will have had no better practice than when you were bringing up a child.
These, and other transferable skills, mean there's no reason why you can't have the job you want, and the fact you may have to fit your working hours around your child shouldn't deter you. Many companies make allowances for parents with flexible hours, subsidised nurseries and job shares just some of the many ways they try to make your work:life balance easier.
Whatever your reason for getting back to work, there's only one person who can make it happen – you. Make sure your skill set is up to speed and you're aware of the latest goings on in your chosen field. The longer you've been away, the scarier it will probably be to start a new job, but it really doesn't take long to get back in the groove.