By EVA CHRISTODOULOU
Taking a career break is something that is primarily done by women. Whether it is to look after a baby or a sick member of the family, women are more likely to take breaks from work, and it can be hard for them to re-join the workforce.
In this article we explore what women can do to better equip themselves for a successful career comeback. But first, let’s have a look at the questions that go through the minds of employers when they face a candidate that is just coming back to the workforce after a break.
1. Are You Ready to Come Back to the Job Market?
When employers see someone that is attempting to re-join the job market, they want to be sure beyond doubt that the individual in question is really prepared to join the workforce once again.
It is important to make clear from the outset whether you are willing to work full time, part time, or state any requirements that you may have.
At the end of the day, no one would like to hire someone who will constantly find reasons to be absent from work, so once you decide that you want to re-join the workforce, make sure you stick to your decision and be committed to put in the hours and focus needed.
2. Have You Kept Up with The Trends and Issues Impacting Your Industry While You Were on Your Break?
Being absent for a long time means that you might be a bit dated in terms of your knowledge and understanding of the industry. Indicate clearly to your potential employer that you have kept up with news and new advances in the industry, and you are ready to pick up from where you left off.
3. Are Your Skills Still Sharp and Up to Date?
Similarly to the point before, it is important to be able to demonstrate that your skills are up to date and you are ready to start your job immediately, without the need for re-training.
4. Do You Have Realistic Expectations of Today’s Workforce?
This can be a big preoccupation of potential employers – do you have realistic expectations in terms of what position/role to expect, or what salary to demand? Having taken a break may mean that you might have to accept a lower position at the beginning of your return, and even a lower salary.
5. Can You Articulate How Your Time Off Will Benefit Your Future Career?
Be prepared to make employers see your time off as an advantage rather as a disadvantage – explain to them how the activities and tasks you undertook during your time off can help you be a better employee.
Be ready to provide an explanation for your decision to take a break. Make sure you frame this explanation in the most positive way, and highlight the benefits that break has had to you as a person.
Part of the explanation would have to tackle the question of why you want to return to the workforce. Avoid answering this by saying that you need the money – a positive answer such as “I need a new challenge”, or “I need the intellectual stimulation” can reap better results.
So what should you do to still keep yourself in the game?
As mentioned earlier, this is one of the main worries of employers.
During your break, make sure that you stay connected to your industry – catch up with old colleagues, volunteer to help whenever possible, or get some freelance work. This can build your resume and make you seem current.
REVIEW YOUR RESUME
Since you probably have not used your resume for a while, it will look dated. Do some online research on resume writing and take some advice from the multitude of online articles that exist. Draft a new resume and include things that you have been doing during your break in order to stay connected to your career.
Connect with your former colleagues and professional friends and let them know you are ready to return to the industry. Personal connections can be a very powerful tool. So leverage your professional but also familial connections to get what you need. Don’t hesitate to ask friends and relatives for ideas or connections.
One creative way to network, is to throw a party – ask former colleagues, work acquaintances, friends, relatives and neighbours to come, and pick their brains for ideas, but also connections they may have.
FOCUS ON FACE TIME
The Internet can, of course, help you to research different employers and send your resume.
However, be willing to get out there and go and knock on a few doors – set a few appointments and go and talk to potential employers in person – it will be much easier to show them your passion and explain your story to them that way rather than by them just looking at your resume.
BROADEN YOUR SCOPE
Remember that a few things have changed by your taking a break from your career. Be willing to be open minded and broaden your scope a little bit. Look for related positions to your last one, and don’t be too insistent on just getting the position you had in the past.
Look for similar posts in other industries, or different positions within the industry you were originally in – the important thing is to be open minded enough to accept new challenges.
DON’T PASS UP OPPORTUNITIES
Even if you are looking for a full time position, don’t dismiss any interesting opportunities for part time employment that may come along – they may be the perfect stepping stone to easing you back to the workforce.
A part time job or contract work may later on lead to a full time gig, so look at what each opportunity can give you and how it could be useful in the longer term, even if it’s just by helping you update your resume, gain experience and meet new people.
And don’t forget, your experiences from your time off could be a mine of rich experiences that could have equipped you with invaluable skills. For example, if you were managing a household budget, you have the skills of fiscal responsibility, financial planning and reconciliation.
If you raised three kids, you have interpersonal skills, problem solving, decision making, and supervisory capabilities. And if you participated in a parent/teacher organisation, you are great at scheduling, organising events, transportation, parties and fundraising.
Just sit and think how your experiences have helped you grow as a person, and show this to your potential employer.