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Returning to work after a break

Your simple five-point plan

Returning to work after a break

Whether you've been out of the workforce for a few months, a few years, or even a decade - it's perfectly normal to feel nervous about getting back to work.

But fear not.

With this five-point plan, you can turn your fear into excitement and use it to fuel a new chapter in your life.

1. Research

Whether you're returning to the same industry that you left, or entering a new career completely, there will be technology, lingo and processes that you will be unfamiliar with.

This is where you need to get your research hat on.

  • Sign up to industry newsletters online or through email
  • Read up on industry trends (look at industry publications and websites)
  • Visit and participate in online industry forums (you can find these by doing an online search)
  • Check out company websites
  • Join professional associations (these will have networking nights and can be a goldmine for information and connections)
  • Do you have any friends or family in that industry? Can you buy them a coffee and have a chat about the industry?

2. Explain your gap

If you've been out of work for longer than a few months, you will need to mention this in your resume and it's likely that you will need to explain the gap between job interviews.

The first step in this process is to create a skills list. To do this, think about all the skills and strengths that you gained outside the workforce. These may include:

  • Courses or qualifications
  • Personality strengths (negotiating, communication, patience, organisation).
  • Practical and time-management skills (you may have balanced your partner's books, managed the finances, tutored your child during homework time, learned counselling skills)
  • Work out how to translate these skills and strengths to a work environment and write them on your skills list. You can use this list in your resume and draw from it during job interviews

3. Network

When you're ready to get back to work, tell everybody you know that you're on the job hunt. Ask for advice and ask if anyone knows of any jobs going.

You may be surprised at how many people get their jobs through a friend or family member. Word of mouth can sometimes get your foot in the door quicker than a traditional search.

It's also a good idea to make a list of businesses that you'd like to work for. Call them up and ask to speak to their HR about potential positions and ask what it takes to get a role with the company. Be friendly and professional. You never know what may happen!

Have a look online to see if there are any professional associations related to the industry you want to work in. If there are, join them. Make sure you get involved by going to networking nights.

4. Get social

There are several social networking sites for professionals that let you connect with other professionals in your field as well as companies and industry associations. They are also heavily used by recruiters to find and research potential employees. Companies also tend to advertise jobs on the sites and they are great places to get industry news and explore career options.

When you join, take some time creating a really great page that shows who you are as a professional and make sure you completely fill in your profile.

Also, connect with companies you are interested in and read what they post.

5. The interview

You want to go into your interview well researched. If you know what you are talking about, recruiters are likely to overlook a career gap and trust that you know your stuff.

Go into the interview knowing a lot about the company. During your interview, find chances to demonstrate that you know what the business is about and that you understand the industry.

When you are asked about your work gap, it's best to be honest. Keep your explanation brief, and focus on how your gap gave you skills that make you a good fit for the role. Then move the conversation back towards your skills and experience.

Recruiters know that sometimes people need to take time out of the workforce. It is not uncommon and they won't eliminate you from the running simply for a work gap. What they are interested in is how you are going to benefit the company. You need to show your value, your commitment to work and what you can bring to the table.

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