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How to successfully manage a career break

career break advice
Taking a career break - what to do

According to the CIPD, around 9,000 people take a career break every year. This could be for a wide range of reasons, including to fulfil personal ambitions (such as travelling the world or starting a family) or to support family or friends who might be ageing, sick or have complex needs.

Whatever the reason for someone wanting to give up work for a while, it can be daunting when the time comes to start looking for a new opportunity. If you’re thinking about taking a break from your career – or are contemplating returning to the workplace in the near future - we’ve put together some top tips to help you maintain your employability and make the transition back to the labour market as smooth as possible.

Assess your priorities

Think about what your time off has taught you about your values and needs going forward. As tempting as it might be fire off CVs left, right and centre in the hope that it’ll help you to find work quickly, the last thing you want to do is panic and end up in the wrong role, or the wrong organisation.

Consider the type of work you’d like to do going forward – do you fancy a change from what you’ve been doing previously, or would you be happy in a similar role? Would a part-time position suit your lifestyle better? Can you afford to take a pay cut? Answering these questions will give you a better chance of finding the right opportunity.

Depending on your circumstances, you might need to look at organisations who can offer long-term flexible working, even once the Covid-19 pandemic is over. This is particularly crucial if you have caring responsibilities, or a young family to look after – the last thing you want is to be in a role that demands more than you can realistically give.

Refresh your skills

Once you’ve assessed which direction you’d like to take your career in, think about whether you need to retrain.

Employ GM, supported by the National Careers Service, can help you to access a wide range of fully funded training opportunities, many of which enable you to gain a nationally recognised qualification. It’s also worth taking advantage of free online training courses. A quick google search will give you a good idea of what’s available in your chosen field.

Even if you’re thinking of continuing in a similar line of work to what you’re used to, it’s still recommended that you do regular training to keep your skills up-to-date. The world can change very quickly, and when you’ve been away from the workplace for a while, it’s easy for your skills to start slipping. By dedicating some of your free time to learning and development, you’ll be doing yourself a favour and maintaining your competitive edge.

Develop your network

It’s important to maintain a certain degree of visibility amongst your network, even if you’re not quite ready to start looking for work. This will help you to maintain relationships with your existing network and build new relationships with people who could potentially help you to find a job once you’re ready.

One of the best ways to do this is on LinkedIn. Try and post once a week whilst on your career break to keep yourself relevant – even if it’s just sharing industry content or commenting on a connection’s post.

Better still, get your creative juices flowing and write your own blog, or film a video discussing something topical within your industry. This kind of thought-leadership not only offers value to your connections, but also helps you to broaden your network if your content is shared far and wide. You never know who might view it.

Highlight the skills you’ve developed during your career break

You might think that a career break looks bad on your CV, but as long as you can explain the reason for your absence – and highlight the skills you gained whilst being away from work – then it’s rarely looked on as a negative by employers.

If you’ve been out of work due to caring responsibilities, then it’s likely your communication skills will have developed – not to mention your resilience and ability to cope with challenging, unpredictable situations.

If you’ve been travelling, then you’ll no doubt have come back with an appreciation for different cultures and have been opened up to different perspectives. Being able to look at situations through different lenses is something which employers value.

Regardless of the reason for your time away from the workplace, you’ll have developed transferrable skills without even realising it – so spend some time reflecting on how you’ve grown as a person.

Whether you’ve just started your career break and are looking to develop your skills, or are getting ready to take steps back into the world of work, Employ GM can point you in the direction of help and advice. Get in touch and find out how you can access tailored skills and employment support.

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The Growth Company