Many people take extended breaks from work these days for a variety of different reasons. Whether you’ve taken time off to start a family, look after an unwell parent, or see the world, returning to work can be exciting but can also often be fraught with anxiety and stress. Whatever your situation, there is sure to be a mix of emotions with the adjustment taking some time to get used to.
The thought of returning to work and the 9 to 5 grind is tough enough without beginning to think about the job search process. Whether you planned your time off or not, there is no ideal approach for everyone. These general tips should help you to think about a personalised approach:
TIP # 1 – Address your barriers – it can be difficult to come across well in an interview if you are worried about returning to work – whether you are thinking about how you will cope with the hours and your young family, the fact that you’ve lost your confidence, or that your skills have become outdated. Whatever it is you are worried about, you need to address it. If you require training or professional help, seek it. Talk to friends or colleagues who have been through a similar situation so negative thoughts can be forgotten prior to any interview.
TIP # 2 – Be honest – we are often asked, “how should I explain the break in my resume?” and our answer is always the same – “be honest without necessarily providing a lot of detail”. If you have an obvious gap in your employment history – you need to explain it. That doesn’t mean creating a job called Domestic Manager and talking up your responsibilities during that time. Running a house and caring for young children is hard, but just say something along the lines of “Parental leave until children reached school age”. Likewise if you travelled, say so, or if you were caring for an ill parent or experienced illness yourself, say so – but briefly. Mention in your cover letter your desire, keenness (and readiness) to get back into your career and focus on the skills and experience you have to offer.
TIP # 3 – Consider a functional resume format – where you focus on skills and achievements rather than a chronological history of specific roles. List skills in detail first, then cumulative career achievements, followed by training, education and professional development, volunteering roles if you’ve held any, and lastly details on the roles you’ve held and dates.
TIP # 4 – Create a volunteer section – make sure to include any volunteer work in your Resume and talk about those roles in the same way you would describe paid employment. This means focusing on achievements – ask yourself how the organisation benefited from your work and include performance metrics if you can. E.g. raising money, organising events, increasing efficiency or effectiveness, or achieving success in other ways. Rather than simply stating you volunteered, talk about what you did and how that contributed to the success of the charity or organisation.
TIP # 5 – Check your image – check your work wardrobe is appropriate for your industry. Find out what is currently acceptable so you don’t feel outdated when going for an interview.
TIP # 6 – Include a customised cover letter – specifically addressing the requirements of the position. Create a strong introduction detailing your qualifications, previous experience and desire to work in the role, with the main part focusing on addressing the specific requirements of the role (what you’ve done/achieved previously); and a convincing closing paragraph summarising your interest in, and relevance for the role. Create a compelling reason for the recruiter to contact you for an interview.
TIP # 7 – Emphasise professional development – think about taking some time to complete some relevant courses that will add to your skills (with currency). Websites such as https://www.mooc-list.com/ offer a variety of free online courses.
TIP # 8 – Stay in touch – lastly and perhaps most importantly, don’t lose touch with your industry/profession or your networks. This means taking an interest and reading/researching on a regular basis to remain updated. Likewise, build and maintain your professional networks by keeping in touch with clients, colleagues and superiors as this can be much harder to achieve down the track. Create a LinkedIn profile, join relevant groups, and commit to staying active. Even allocating one hour a week to this task will ensure you are in a much better position when you do decide to return to work, than if you’d cut yourself off completely.
If you are an employer and would like to assist redundant employees to secure a new role, please see our outplacement services.