Address It In Your CV
You’ve got yourself the perfect CV - apart from the three-year career gap right at the top. Don’t panic - you just need to be honest. “If your career break was over three months, it’s often best to acknowledge this upfront as potential employers are likely to question gaps,” Darain Faraz, Careers Expert at LinkedIn, advises. “A short line around what you spent your time doing on your career break is usually absolutely fine, and something you can expand on in your interview.”
In fact, Darain says, you can even spin this into a positive on your CV: “Although it can sometimes feel daunting heading back to work after a career break - and it’s easy to feel nervous about how it will be perceived - use the opportunity to demonstrate the skills and positive experiences that you gained during your time out. For instance, if you took time to raise a family, you can talk about how this has developed your multitasking skills and creativity. Parenthood will open up a new lens through which you view life and work, which can be invaluable when it comes to problem-solving. The same goes for travelling - it’s not just one long holiday! It’s about experiencing new cultures and broadening your mind, which will ultimately set you apart in an increasingly global workplace.”
As women, it’s often in our nature to apologise for things we shouldn’t. Don’t make that mistake - you’re not here to apologise, you’re here to show why you are the best person for the job. “If you’re feeling nervous about getting asked this question, try to remember that career breaks are very common these days, and there are plenty of reasons for taking one. Yours is just as valid,” Darain confirms. “All of your experience will count towards the role, whether it’s within the workplace or not. Many employers want to hire applicants who have a variety of life experiences and can bring this perspective into their work. Think of what you did during your time out as an addition to your skills and not something that needs justifying.”
Returning To Work After A Baby Might Require A Longer Conversation
When you’re returning to the workplace after having a child, it’s never going to be as straightforward. Hopefully you’ll have a good enough employer that will make you feel comfortable when making the decision about the right time for you to return to work, but Darain says you should always be firm in your decisions and don’t feel rushed or pressured into giving an answer - it’s about what feels right for you.
You’ll need to take into consideration the changes having a baby brings to your life, and how this’ll affect your work. Be ready to negotiate on flexible working, says Darain: “Flexible working is becoming increasingly the norm for new parents - and all members of the workforce - so a conversation with your employer when you return should definitely factor this in, if it’s something they are able to offer. Many employers already have policies in place, such as flexi-hours or working from home, so don’t be afraid to ask. If your employer is supportive they will want to retain your talent and give you space to do your best work and help you manage your new family commitments, so it’s to everyone’s benefit to find the best set-up that works for both sides.”
Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
It’s easy to say that confidence is key, especially as returning to the workplace after having a baby can really affect your confidence as you adjust to a new way of life. But Darain is sure that, sooner or later, it’ll click back into place for you. “It's a cliché that returning to work is as easy as remembering how to ride a bike, but fears that all your skills and knowledge will have slipped away during your career break can usually be dispelled quite quickly.” Just take your time and don’t be pressured into trying to catch up too quickly.
Use Your Connections
If you’re struggling to find your groove at your job, try and get in touch with some of the connections you made before taking your break to help ease you back into work - familiarity can be invaluable. “Reach out through LinkedIn to meet for a coffee with a colleague or manager to chat about any concerns you might have, as well as other parents you know who have taken breaks (there are plenty!),” says Darain. “It can be really helpful to post on your LinkedIn profile asking for advice too - we see members of our community reaching out to their networks on a whole range of workplace topics every day and it’s likely you have connections who can offer some really insightful advice. You could even join a group on LinkedIn dedicated to mothers returning to work and give yourself that support system to lean on as you find your feet.”
Stay In The Loop
To minimise the shock of returning to work after an extended period, Cathryn Sims, Head of HR at Creditsafe, says some like to be kept updated with the goings-on in their office: “While some employers may do this in the form of ‘keeping in touch days’, other may invite career breakers to social occasions and keep them cc’d into any company newsletters, internal updates and communications, which can help them to feel part of the inner circle. It’ll certainly help them when they are re-integrating into the workplace.”
Darain agrees that it’s easy to stay engaged with your industry and colleagues by staying active both online and offline. “Make sure you keep in the loop with what your network is posting and talking about on LinkedIn, and engage with interesting content. You can also use LinkedIn to keep up to date with industry news and key players. All of this helps strengthen your knowledge whilst absent from the office. You might also spot a job on LinkedIn through a connection that will take you by surprise, so make sure your profile is up to date should anyone want to take a look at your career history, and ask ex-colleagues to share endorsements for your key skills. Putting your current career break in the headline of your profile is also a good way to be upfront with prospective employers about what you’re up to at the moment.”
Have A Buddy
Cathryn says that, particularly at the start of your return-to-work period, it can help to have a ‘buddy’ system in place to help you get back on your feet. “Having a mentor or buddy that is familiar can be a tremendous source of support for getting used to being back in the workplace. As well as providing a go-to for any questions, they should be on hand to help when they might simply be having a bad day. We’re hearing more about the importance of mental health first aid in the workplace and being able to have this on hand is important for ensuring employers look after their staff.”