Roughly 90,000 Brits take a career break every year in the UK. Some choose to take an absence to raise a family, look after a loved one, or pursue other dreams. No matter what the reasons for taking a career break are, re-entering the workforce can be challenging. Fortunately, with the right support and plenty of research, getting back to work can be rewarding and exciting.
This article shares some actionable advice on how to return to work after a career break.
What is a Career Break?
A career break is a period of time when you are absent from work. This can be due to illness, injury, family circumstances, or to pursue personal interests. Generally speaking, any period of unpaid leave lasting more than 2 months is considered a career break. That said, there is no specific length of time for a career break. Some may take a couple of months while others may take a couple of decades. Most people who take career breaks don’t have employment lined up when re-entering the workforce.
It’s a common misconception that taking a career break means leaving the professional world altogether. This isn’t always the case. Many people choose to use their time to retrain, refresh their skills, or take on personal projects. As such, they will continue to network and grow their personal brand. Others may choose to volunteer or step away from the working world completely. There is no right or wrong way to take a break in your career.
Re-Entering the Workforce After a Long Absence
Getting back to work is a tough transition and it’s only natural to feel anxious or overwhelmed. Having said that, preparing properly can help you to make the shift as seamlessly as possible.
We look at 6 tips for returning to work after an extended period.
1. Choose a New Career Path
There’s no doubt that getting back to work is daunting, but it’s also an exciting new start. The first step in the process is choosing a new career path. You may feel more comfortable returning to the same career you had before your break or you may want a total change. The great thing about an extended absence from work is that you have time to stop and re-evaluate.
To help you make the decision, start by listing all of your transferable skills. This will give you a clear idea of your key competencies and will aid you in finding a career that suits them. For instance, you may want to search for jobs for good communicators.
Next, consider your values, what do you want in your next employer and career? Finding an employer that is aligned with your values will make the transition back into the workforce much easier.
Finally, take your personal situation into account. Be realistic about the type of work and employer that will fit your lifestyle. For instance, if you have a large family or other commitments, you may want to consider careers that offer flexible work. The longer you have been out of the workforce, the more your skills and priorities are likely to have changed. As such, weighing up these factors is an important first step in finding the right career path for you.
2. Update Your CV
The next step in the process is to refresh your CV. Gaps on your CV can be red flags for employers when not properly explained. As a result, it’s important to address them and highlight the skills and experiences you have gained during your leave of absence. Focus on the soft skills and life experiences that will make you perfect for your new role.
For example, let’s say you are considering a career change to nursing after an extended career break to look after a sick loved one. During that time, you have built a host of valuable skills that will benefit you as a nurse such as resilience, empathy, and handling medication. Use your cover letter to highlight what you have done during your career break that will benefit you in this role.
Check out our guides on dealing with CV gaps, writing a career change CV, and cover writing tips for further advice.
3. Network, Network, Network
Whether you’re breaking into a totally new career or returning to your previous one, a strong network will set you in good stead. Networking can seem uncomfortable in the beginning, but it’s an excellent opportunity to grow your network, attend industry-specific events, and meet like-minded individuals. More importantly, you can leverage your network to gain insight into the industry, job vacancies, and other relevant news. If your networking skills are a bit rusty, take a look at our networking tips for career changers.
Don’t forget about your current network. Reach out to your connections and let them know you are planning on re-entering the workforce. They may be able to offer you valuable advice, referrals, recommendations, or mentorship during the process.
4. Retrain for the Role
A common concern amongst career changers is that their skills and experience are no longer relevant. This is particularly common for those returning to work after a long absence. While this may be true when it comes to technical skills, especially in fast-paced industries, it’s not the case with soft skills.
Many soft skills come from life experience and, therefore, are unlikely to be lost during a career break. In fact, you have probably developed new soft skills that would be an asset to any employer. However, you may need to retrain or refresh your skills to develop new technical skills.
Fortunately, there is a plethora of retraining courses for adults that will prepare you to re-enter the workforce with the competencies you need. Investing in adult retraining or refresher courses will not only boost your skillset, but it will show employers you are committed to your professional growth. What’s more, it will make you feel more confident about starting a new career or getting back to your previous one.
5. Consider Other Options
If you still lack confidence or you’re experiencing a lot of rejection as you job hunt, it may be time to look at other routes. For instance, volunteering, doing an adult internship, going freelance, or taking on an entry-level role to gain experience. You could even try searching for career change jobs with no experience or remote jobs with no experience. While this isn’t a financially viable option for everyone, it offers you a way to build your CV.
Be creative and don’t take no for an answer. Just because your entryway into a career (or back to a career) isn’t the traditional way doesn’t mean it’s any less valid.
6. Work on Your Confidence
One of the best ways to boost your chances of successfully re-entering the workforce is to work on your confidence. The more confident you are in your abilities, the better you will be at selling yourself during interviews. Our confidence tips guide offers some handy tips on how to sell your skills and achievements.
Once you feel confident, the final step is to put yourself out there. Send off your CV, attend networking events, and prepare for the interview process. It may not happen overnight, but you will learn something new each time you apply.
Our job board for career changers is a fantastic place to start your job hunt. You’ll find a wealth of employment opportunities for career changers and those re-entering the workforce after a long absence.
Final Thoughts On Re-Entering The Workforce
Returning to work after a career break can be intimidating, but these tips will help you make the transition. Whether you want to return to your previous career or change careers completely, we are here to support you.
Our website offers a wealth of valuable resources, including career change guides, confidence tips, information on how to retrain, and much more.
For further advice, check out our resources on changing careers or browse our live job board for career change opportunities near you.