Tips for returning to work after a long absence

Re-entering the workforce after an extended absence, whether it’s 12 months or 12 years, can be a daunting and intimidating step to take.

The reason for the extended absence can be a myriad of reasons, whether it’s raising children, ill health, changes of life circumstances etc. and can vary greatly between each person, but some of the unique challenges faced when looking to land a new job will be shared.

Navigating the ever-changing job market is not easy for anyone, but it can be especially difficult when there’s a long pause on your resume. Therefore, it’s important to think a little further than the traditional job search and application route to successfully re-enter the workforce.

Luckily, there are ways to overcome many of these obstacles and achieve success, no matter how long you’ve been away from the work environment. We will look at some of these below:

Boost your self-belief

A career break can lead to returners undervaluing what they can offer an employer. Taking time to review what your strength’s and skills are, and working out where you may need a little updating, can help to boost your confidence.

• Ask friends and family for feedback on what you’re good at (with examples)
• Write down at least 5 achievements and the skills you demonstrated
• Update your skills and knowledge by taking refresher courses, reading about current industry issues, joining webinars and following potential employers on social media.

Prepare to network and don’t hide your career break

Before taking the first step into networking and approaching employers, it’s important to prepare how you will tell your previous employment and career break story

Be prepared to:

• Outline your pre-break work experience and qualifications
• Give a brief explanation for your break. There’s no need to apologise or justify it. It is what it is. Mention how you used the break to get involved with your community, improve and care for yourself, and how you kept your skills relevant
• Describe where you would like your career to go now

Reconnect with your professional self

If it’s relevant to your industry, create a new Linkedin profile; look to reconnect and meet with former colleagues who remember you as your ‘professional self’. Join industry groups and attend, or volunteer at events.

Be creative about how you can take the first step

There are several ways you can start the job searching process without having to rely on the more traditional routes. These could include:

• Through your contacts, propose a short project ‘work placement’
• Look into temporary assignments various employers may have temporary assignments available, and will often fill them with people who are between jobs
• Join a recruitment agency for temp work. This is a good way of getting your foot in the door for temporary work to boost self-confidence and get up to date with industry trends. It’s also a great way to network
• Volunteering could be one way to get the experience necessary to gain a paid job in the field. In addition, if you prove your worth through volunteer work, an employer may offer you a paid position, even though that wasn’t the original agreement.

All the above tips help to fill your CV gap, build your network and professional confidence – and may even lead to a permanent role.

Feel confident to try any one, or a combination of the above strategies to help you find work after a long absence but most importantly, remember that you are the same skilled and capable person you were before your absence from the workforce!


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