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Careers Part 1: How to get back into work after a career break

Searching for a new job can be an incredibly daunting experience, whether you’re returning after a career break since raising a family, or simply changing careers or jobs. Trust us we’ve all been there! Here in Part 1 of her careers series, Katharine Landale from Bold New World, helps us navigate these choppy waters to reach a calm and happy outcome.

Forget January, Autumn is the new year for parents. Exciting and full of opportunity. Children in new academic groups or schools, leaving home to universities, boarding schools or starting their year off travelling. Family life shifts on its axis during these months and it is always worth taking a moment to reassess what you as a parent need from your professional life, whilst the new realities at home settle into place.

All things are possible, particularly for a woman in 2019. With a far greater emphasis, on equal opportunities, promoting women to the boardroom, women returning to the workplace in general and more flexible working practices. There are a number of wonderful organisations including, the 30% Club and the brilliant Women Returners, who are tireless in promoting women throughout the corporate world and offering practical and honest advice.

Employers have realised for sometime the benefit of experienced people, both men and women, embarking on second careers and are asking for them to be considered first as candidates. Additionally technology has enabled a far greater range of contractual opportunities to be offered to those wishing to work part time or take on project work at times to suit them, whether working compressed, flexible, part time or full time hours. There has never been a better time for us to find a new role.

Reaffirm | Return | Rethink | Rebalance

However, before rushing in, taking time to ensure you are ‘business ready’ is time well spent. Whether changing career, returning to the workplace following a break, or volunteering for a charitable role, being business ready is essential. Even if you are not changing a thing professionally, having time to reassess and ensure you are in the right place is very good for your confidence. You will know where you are going.

We urge all our wonderful candidates to clear their desk, put aside a few hours and think about themselves in two parts:

The first, note what you really want from your professional life. For just a period of time the focus is on you and shiny blue sky thinking of what path you would like to be on in a year’s time. There is only one rule, you are simply not allowed to think, ‘oh I can’t do that as I don’t have the skills needed’. As we note below skills are taught and we can learn them.

The second part is reality and the practicalities you have as a person at home.

One word though. Please wear this exercise lightly, it is not a mission statement that weighs heavily. This is ideal world thinking and none of the points you complete are set in stone. It is just a good place to start.

  • Create your Secret CV: This is a document that no one but you will ever see. Please include anything you covered professionally from work experience during your teen years through your professional career, including any voluntary work, parent groups, community groups and charitable trusts.
  • Everything should go down however brief or not important you may think an event is. Hopefully you will cover many pages. At the bottom please list all your skills (qualifications and courses, things you have been taught) and strengths (what you are naturally good at i.e. people person, organised, creative, assertive etc.) This is the CV that no one sees but you will need it for the following:
  • Self Analysis: Look at your secret CV, what are your skills and strengths? Where would you rather position your energy? Do you find playing to your qualifications or what you are naturally good at more enjoyable? Where did you feel more comfortable? Dig deep, be honest to yourself. Reading your past job history, achievements and areas of responsibility, what skills and strengths did you use in each of your successes. Are you working within these parameters still or is it time to reposition yourself? We are always encouraged to ask a friend or relation to critique us, in reality this is tricky, but if you can, it is very beneficial.
  • With all this under your belt, map out some choices. Go to various websites offering jobs, just for an idea of what is out there. Please do not apply yet! You may decide to stay in the same industry, alternatively be open to new ideas or start your own business. Give yourself time to mull over all areas that interest you and sleep on any big decisions. If it looks right in the morning, it most certainly will be a positive step for you. Run it past a friend and explain your thinking. Saying it all out loud and several times is not only confidence building as you warm to your theme, but mentally it solidifies your resolve.
  • Time: This is the important. Please be realistic with two areas. A new job search takes a large amount of time and should be treated as a job itself. And secondly note what hours you realistically have available during the day for your new role. This will apply to where you work, along with what role it is and how supportive employers are if the role is a flexible one. If you are returning to work after a break now is the time to look at support you may need at home, how much time it gives you and how much it may cost.
  • Stress: How pressurised would you like to be? Life at home may already have pressures, wonderful (or not) as they are, but adding to this mix may not be helpful. You may wish therefore to take on something less senior and for less hours. There are great jobs out there for all types of seniority and contract. Don’t be afraid to be completely realistic in this section.
  • Money: Finally money, there is no point taking on a role you love but financially is not helping your bottom line. The pressure that this causes sadly doesn’t justify the means. Typically, the best things in life are free, including our perfect job…!

This exercise should give you a broad road map, areas of interest and some pointers. You are set…the next steps are:

  • Networking. Use every opportunity you have to mull over directions you are interested in progressing with others. Accept every invitation to join a group of likemindedpeople,whether social, business, charitable or at school.  Whilst setting up my business I was literally overcome, almost on a daily basis by how collaborative, kind, supportive and positive even people I barely knew were. The basic fact of life is if you believe passionately in the direction you wish to take others do too. Chat to everyone about what they do, what they love and in turn they will ask you.
  • Everyone has a friend that can help so when you are offered an introduction please take it, make that telephone call, email the organisation. Most people want to help. What is the worst thing that can happen? After all you can’t go wrong as all this will stress test the direction you have decided to take.
  • LinkedIn. Please sign up and use this freely. It is an excellent professional networking site. Do remember though to always be professional when using this form of social media. Employers can see you. We have a large amount of information on this and there is a huge amount on the internet. But it is an excellent resource and its free!
  • Email. If you don’t already have a professional email address, please set one up. Ideally this should be one that only you have access to. Similarly do look at your social media profile. Would you be happy for an employer to see it? They will look you up.

Finally, wherever you are wanting to go professionally, you must realise that you have already achieved a great deal in your professional life, whether you have had a career break or not. If you are changing roles or returning, you are not starting again. You are merely building on the full CV you already have and on the brilliant and brave person you are.  Have courage and aim to be the very best version of yourself. You know deep, deep down you can.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where Katharine tackles CVs, covering letters, the career gap and interviewing…

Bold New World is a bespoke on-line recruitment platform listing wonderful jobs and charitable opportunities. Promoting and providing an umbrella for Returners, Rethinkers, Rebalancers and Retirers, we only list jobs we would take on ourselves. Visit their website to set up alerts and apply for some great new roles.

For a great range of brilliant available jobs the School Notices Jobs Board also has some wonderful opportunities to browse through

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