Take a Chance on Me: Returning to the Job Market After a Break

By Heather Foley

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Getting a job is difficult. Getting a job after a break is even more difficult.

Governments believe that long-term unemployment is damaging to individuals and communities, affecting mental and physical health.  What’s more, it holds back economic growth. Yet, getting back to work isn’t always as easy as it sounds.  What you need are some practical steps to assist you.



As ever, preparation is key to success.

1. Identify what you really want to do

You may assume you’ll go back to what you used to do. But, is this what you really want? Is it what you’re most suited to? Is it what’s best for you now in your current circumstances?

Take the time to consider what you enjoy and what job you believe you would thrive in. There are career guidance specialists who can help to guide you through the process of exploring all the options. They can even conduct psychometric tests, which are useful for helping you see more objectively the type of person you are and, therefore, the types of jobs you’d enjoy.

2. Refresh your skills

Governments and private sectors fund all types of courses. You could completely retrain as a teacher, or baker. You could polish your IT skills, or you could learn a new language. The options are almost limitless.

3. Arrange your home life

Whether you’ve taken a break for illness, to have a family, to be a carer or for any other reason, you’ve probably built up commitments. Use this time to make alternative arrangements. You could locate a great child-care facility, or identify an assisted-living residence for your elderly relative.  Whatever the situation, make sure you’ve made good arrangements. If not, the logistical organisation of your new job will soon become problematic.

Getting the job

When you’ve made the necessary preparations, you now need to find that perfect job.

1. Refresh your CV

There are many free online resources giving guidance on how to prepare a CV. It’s worth noting that most employers are fine about career breaks, if you are transparent about why you took it and why you wish to return. Employers become nervous when a CV looks like it’s trying to hide something or is disingenuous.

2. Use the Internet

Trawl the Internet for job boards. You can even upload your CV, which is then made available to employers looking for people with your skills.

3. Apply through agencies

There will usually be a good selection in your local area. However, it’s worth investing the time to identify agencies that specialises in the types of job you’re after.

4. Refresh your contacts

It’s time to dust down your networking skills and speak with everyone you know about the type of role you’re after. Ask if they know anyone who could help you. After all, it’s often not what you know, but who you know.

5. Be refreshed

Before your interviews, make sure you sleep well and are able to relax. It’s important to feel refreshed and energised on the big day.

6. Enjoy the interview

Don’t put yourself under too much pressure. If the job is right for you, the person interviewing will see it too. Be yourself and let your enthusiasm for the role and the organisation shine through. The rest will follow.

Making the job work

When you’ve landed a job, there are still some useful things to bear in mind.

1. Agree your objectives and targets early on

If you and your manager are clear on what is expected of you, you’ll be able to focus your efforts on what’s most important. It’s also a way to demonstrate the value you add to the organisation.

2. Introduce yourself

Most people are at least a little shy. As the new person, take a deep breath and introduce yourself to the new people around you. Once you’ve done this, it’s amazing how soon friendly faces can become friends.

3. Review regularly with your manager

Some managers are great at providing regular feedback and support. Others are not so. If yours is the latter, take the initiative and book frequent review sessions. These will be your chance to show the progress you’re making, to ask any questions, and to ensure your manager agrees that you’re on track.

4. Ask for flexible working

If you find that balancing home and work is more difficult than you anticipated, think about what actions you can take.  Perhaps request flexible working. Almost all employers only really worry about results and output. So, if you need flexibility, don’t be afraid to ask, but give yourself the best chance of being given it by always meeting your objectives and hitting your targets.

There’s no doubt that returning to work after a break is tricky.  It’s not always appropriate to return to your old role, and you may not even want to.  But, the most difficult aspect of returning to work is taking that first step.  Take heed from Mark Twain, who recognised this when he said “the secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Well, who knows?  Today could be start day for you.

Heather Foley is a consultant at etsplc.com, a UK-based HR consultancy and technology company


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