Expert Tips for Returning to the Workplace Following a Career Break

Despite the growing number of workers deciding to take planned time away from traditional employment, many people find going back to work challenging.

In 2018, the Government Equalities Office launched the Returners Fund: a scheme that awarded around £1.5 million to 16 pilot returner projects within the private sector to support employers and engage employees returning to work following a career break.

Across these projects, returning workers reported some common barriers in their new roles, including:

• Lack of confidence.
• Unpracticed or outdated skills and knowledge.
• Negative employee perceptions.

However, in 2022, the working world has changed. Millions of furloughed workers in the UK experienced returning to work after coronavirus lockdowns, and work-life balance has become a primary concern.

More employees seek modern, flexible working arrangements to accommodate other passions, care for relatives, travel, raise children or support a partner. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly common to see a career break listed in someone’s employment history, and attitudes towards career breaks are positively shifting.

Still, deciding to return to work remains a daunting prospect for many people. So, as a returning candidate, what can you do to improve your chances of getting hired and enjoying a smooth reintegration into the workplace?

Explain your career break

If you’ve been on a prolonged break from work or hope to start a career in a new industry, you may feel anxious about getting back out there. But with the right mindset and approach, you can confidently portray your time away as a valuable experience that’s helped, not hindered, your suitability for a role.

When applying for roles, it’s essential to address your career break from the offset in a cover letter or interview, but you should then divert back towards your skillset and enthusiasm about the role. Be honest and brief about your hiatus, and take the opportunity to highlight any personal development or skills you gained during your time out of conventional employment.

Identify your specialist skills area

Businesses are becoming more flexible, and employers are keen to recruit workers from a broader range of backgrounds and experience levels to meet talent demand. So, before you dive back into the candidate pool, it’s worth considering what you have to offer. No matter how long you’ve been away, your unique knowledge and experience will still be valuable to the right company.

Equally, if you’re inexperienced in a particular field, you likely have some attributes or experiences that may still be relevant to the role. Most employees highly value ‘soft’ interpersonal skills just as much as formal qualifications; stay open-minded about what could help prove your suitability for the job.

Update your CV

There are many reasons why you may have taken a career break — from starting a family to returning to education. Still, it can be difficult to know what to include in your CV when looking to go back to work.

Ensuring your CV helps you stand out from the crowd is essential. Don’t just leave a blank space for the period you’ve been away; briefly outline what you’ve been doing, including any relevant experience or qualifications you’ve gained during that time. You should also update your LinkedIn or other professional profile to let people in your network know you welcome new work opportunities.

Prepare in advance

Preparing for your job search is crucial regardless of how long you’ve been in or out of employment. Depending on the length of your break, you may want to complete a few training courses or attend industry events (either online or in-person) to demonstrate your interest in the sector and your commitment to getting stuck back in.

Once you get to the interview stage, prepare some responses to the types of questions your interviewer may ask about your career break. As long as you can positively explain and reflect on the time away from your field, today’s employers are likely to be understanding of a gap in your employment history.

Seek advice from a recruitment agency

No matter your motivations for your career break, getting back into employment can be intimidating. However, a period of planned leave shouldn’t get in the way of returning to the workplace or taking the next step in your career.

In 2022, the job market is brimming with opportunities for job seekers of all backgrounds, ages and qualifications, and employers are more flexible than ever. However, according to LinkedIn, 85% of all jobs are filled by networking, but almost half (49%) of job seekers say they don’t have time to keep up with their professional network.

To ensure you experience a smooth transition to the world of work, we recommend enlisting the expert advice of a recruitment specialist. A professional recruiter can help you refine your search, construct applications, prepare for interviews and draw on their professional connections to help you find and secure the perfect role.

Contact our Farnham-based recruitment specialists at 01252 727887 or email info@ontrackrecruitment.co.uk today to speak to our team about your plans for returning to work following a career break.