19 Aug 2016
One of the most common "returner" mistakes is to launch straight into an unfocused job search; this has the lowest likelihood of success and is more likely to dent fragile self-confidence than get someone back into a satisfying job. Here are some top tips that provide a more productive route back to work.
1. Get a clear about what type of role you want
A scattergun approach rarely works. This is a great opportunity to consider what you enjoy doing rather than just thinking about what you’re qualified to do and what jobs are available. Think about what you have been most motivated and energised by in your past jobs and use this knowledge to identify the types of activity and environment that best suit you. Do you prefer managerial or technical roles, operational or strategic? Do you prefer large well-structured organisations or smaller more hands-on organisations?
2. When and where do you want work
Would self-employment or freelance work be a viable option? If you need greater job stability but want more work-life balance, don’t limit yourself to looking for advertised part-time roles. There are many ways to work flexibly around your personal commitments, in terms of time (flexible start/end time or compressed hours), and location (working from home for part of the week). Recent research found that most employers are open to flexible working, even though this is rarely stated in the job description.
3. Remind yourself of what you can offer an employer
We find that the majority of returners undervalue themselves. Your strengths and skills, as well as your experience and qualifications, can be real assets to an employer. Ask friends and family for feedback and analyse your past achievements to pick out skills you have demonstrated.
4. Refresh your skills and knowledge
Subscribe to a professional magazine, read about current issues, follow key employers on Twitter and "talk shop" with ex-colleagues. Consider taking a refresher course and, if you’re concerned about technology changes, sign up for an IT update.
5. Build networks
Don’t just rely on online job boards; most returners find their roles through contacts. To make yourself feel and sound more credible, start by crafting your career story:
- Outline your pre-break work experience and qualifications.
- Give a brief explanation for your break - don’t apologise or justify - and mention any relevant study or voluntary work.
- Finish with a short description of what type of work you are targeting now. Start by telling friends, family and local acquaintances what you’re looking for - you never know who might be able to help.
6. Create or update a LinkedIn profile
Remember that an employer's image of you will be fixed in time as the professional surveyor you were. Build your professional networks by joining industry groups and attending or volunteering at industry events.
7. Gain experience in alternative ways
Find a volunteering role through a charity or professional organisation, or use your contacts to arrange a short project-based work placement. This will build your network and professional confidence, and will give you something to talk about in meetings or interviews. Furthermore, it will fill your CV gap to enhance targeted job applications and may lead to a permanent role.
About Women Returners
Julianne Miles is the Managing Director of Women Returners, a UK consulting, coaching and network organisation, which works with individuals and businesses to enable the return to work of professional women after a long career break. Join their free Professional Network for advice, information and support.
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