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Returning to work after a career break

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We’ve collaborated with caba, the independent charity helping the ICAEW community thrive, to offer advice on how to return to work after a break.

It can be incredibly daunting to even consider going back to work after a career break, no matter the reason for the hiatus. We know that people take breaks for a few months, or a few years, but with the intent to return to work at some point.

So how do you go about getting back into the workforce? Here are a few tips to help your return go as smoothly as possible.

Explaining a career break on your CV

Some people find that they lose their confidence a little after a career break, especially when it comes to explaining the gap in their CV to prospective employers. You may wonder if the break will go against you when it comes to applying for jobs.

But if you’re clear about your strengths and skills, and add in any new skills or knowledge you’ve gained during your break, then you shouldn’t have any problems.

When you rewrite your CV after your break, make sure you include details of previous roles and responsibilities as usual, but in the same layout include your time off.

For example:

Job hunting following redundancy (2021-present)
During this time I…
Attended networking events (name these if they’re relevant to the role you’re applying for)
Completed a training course in (name the course, dates, and any certifications you achieved)

Or

Homemaker (2020-present)
During this time I….
Raised money for a local charity by… (explain what you did and any relevant skills)
Volunteered at…. (add in where and what you did)

No matter what you did during your career break, you’ll be able to find something relevant to add to your CV.

Explaining a career break during interviews

Make sure you talk about your break with pride, and only mention it once unless you’re asked more about it.

You can use phrases such as:

‘As you will see, I have been out of the financial job market for five years and I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about it.’

‘In the spirit of transparency, my five-year career gap centred around raising a family.’

And make sure they’re aware of the things that you have been doing that are relevant to the role. Remember, just because something was voluntary, or not what you would deem “work”, doesn’t mean it doesn’t add value to your skill set.

Confidence boosters

We’ve given you some tips on how to speak confidently about your career break, but it’s time to work on your confidence to get you back into the workplace.

Volunteering

Doing unpaid work can be amazingly rewarding. It allows you to step back into a work environment and rediscover your skills and capabilities. You never know, an unpaid placement could turn into a permanent paid position.

Skills update

Find out what’s available for adult learners at your local college or community centre. If you’ve been out of work for some time, an IT refresher course might be a good idea. Similarly, if you’re wanting to return to a management role or senior position, a management course could boost your confidence again.

Anxious?

Anxiety is no surprise when it comes to getting back to work. Feeling anxious can put you off trying something new, and potentially stop you returning to employment. It’s best to tackle anxiety head-on, and there are plenty of ways of dealing with it. Consider meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, and challenging unhelpful thoughts.

If anxiety is affecting your transition back into the workplace, talk to a healthcare professional, family and friends or caba. Don’t try to ignore it.

Don’t feel guilty

So many parents feel guilty about going back to work after raising their children, or leaving someone they’ve been caring for. This is normal, especially if there are people at home that depend on you.

Remember the benefits of returning to work. For example, if your child has to go into nursery, or is starting school, they’re going to be socialising with other children, and developing new skills and friendships. Similarly, having a professional take over your caring responsibilities may offer new opportunities to secure specialist equipment, and enable you to take advantage of extra support.

And there are benefits for you too. Going back to work can increase your income and boost your wellbeing and confidence. Both of which will have a positive impact on other aspects of your life.

Dos and don’ts for a smooth transition back to the workplace

We know it can be overwhelming to go back to work after a break - no matter how long it’s been. Here are some practical actions you can take to make sure you have a good experience and don’t forget about your wellbeing.

  • Do follow a realistic morning routine that will help get you in the mindset for work and start your day on the right foot

  • Don’t dwell on the negatives (e.g. how unconfident or behind you feel). Instead, focus on why you used to enjoy working and the areas you excelled at

  • Do give yourself plenty of time to settle in, especially if you’ve been away for a considerable amount of time

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. This applies to easing yourself back into the work routine, as well as being kinder to yourself when it comes to remembering and learning new things

  • Do stay in tune with your body. If you’re getting headaches or feeling particularly tired, take note of these signs and prioritise your wellbeing. Some easy tips include getting a good night’s sleep, not logging on outside of work hours, and taking breaks.

Final thoughts

It can be daunting to return to work after a career break, or unexpectedly finding yourself back in the job market after a redundancy. The practices that secured your last job might be slightly different from those you need to use to secure your next position.

But don’t worry. caba can help you find the right job opportunities and develop the right skills to get back into employment quickly. Get in touch with caba for more advice and support.

If you know that you need more qualifications to get you back on track, have a look at our course pages to see what we offer, and choose the right one for your career.

This blog is a joint collaboration between Kaplan and caba. caba is the charity that supports ACA students, past and present ICAEW members and their close family dependents.