Mind the Gap: Taking the plunge into work after a career break
So you are ready to take the plunge back into the workforce after a career break? Whether it’s been a year, three years, five years or more than a decade, getting back into the workforce after time away can seem more than a little daunting. For many women wishing to find their way again in the world of paid work, they don’t know where to begin. I know I didn’t. Many women seek to resume work out of financial necessity or the desire for a bit of professional engagement, but they can feel lost and lacking in confidence. Women who have had career breaks face obstacles that other job seekers may not face. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Don’t fall for the media lie that taking time out of a career to raise children will be the death of a career. In fact the good news is that many employers acknowledge that mothers can be good employees because they are hard working, efficient, mature and organized. They get stuff done!
After children, one’s working outside the home life may look very different to the working life one may have had B. C (before children). I can’t speak for other people, but personally I feel that my capacity for work is much smaller now because so much is required at home. I would say that I am surprised at how busy life is with three school aged children. It’s great, but it’s also getting busier as the children get older. In an ideal world, I’d love a job that is essentially school hours or less. Something that fits in with everything else. You know, the school runs, sick days, school holidays and taxi-ing to scouts and football. But those sorts of jobs are quite hard to come by. Having embarked upon the herculean task of moving country with a family early last year, it is only now that I feel ready to pursue a little bit of paid work. As there is no harm in looking, I began by perusing job websites. And it was interesting to see what is out there. Without wishing to sound too pessimistic, I found that most of the jobs were not really feasible for me. They were either not commutable (as I live in the countryside), or they were not a good fit for my qualifications. Furthermore I don’t yet have membership of my professional body over here so that means that I can’t work in my profession – yet. It was a little demoralizing.
Apparently this is how most people begin a job search, and accourding to the UK consultancy Women Returners, it’s a strategy that rarely works. While raising children is possibly the hardest (and most rewarding) work one has ever done, sadly it is unlikely to be seen in that way by a prospective employer. We may have had many life experiences over the course of our career break, however these experiences are difficult to articulate on a C.V. Furthermore, many employers want their staff to have recent experience. And then it’s a chicken and egg scenario. How can you get a job when you don’t have relevant and recent experience, and how do you acquire experience until you get a job? Many people wonder about the ‘gap’ on their C.V. Some people highlight it, however the general consensus seems to be that a chronological C.V may not be the best option if you have had an extended career break. Perhaps a better option would be to utilize a skills based C.V template, highlighting particular strengths and skills.
Instead of trawling job websites, here’s what the experts recommend:
It’s who you know. Many jobs are discovered via word of mouth. Tell family and friends what you are looking for. They may have contacts and connections that are helpful for you. Be prepared to network.
Have confidence. Many returners lack the confidence to put themselves out there. Isn’t confidence half that battle with most things? Boost your confidence by taking small steps. Don’t undervalue what you can offer an employer. Discover your strengths and take a quiz or even a psychometric test if you are not sure what those strengths are. Career counsellors and coaches can be invaluable. Remember that you are the same capable person that you were before you had a career break, albeit a little rusty! Don’t undervalue the whole host of skills that being a parent has developed in you- skills like time management, stress management, project management and communication skills.
Think outside the square. Be creative and be open to looking at internships, ‘returnships’ or voluntary positions (I know these options may not be feasible if you need the income). Also be prepared to start small and even consider entry level positions. It’s easier to get another job once you have a job.
Look for something that you would enjoy rather than something that is a strategic career move. This is one of the more helpful pearls of wisdom I’ve been given recently and it makes sense.
If you have taken the plunge from working at home to working outside the home, what advice would you offer other returners? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.