Returning To Work

  | James Innes

There are a multitude of reasons as to why you may have taken a break in your career. You may for example have been dedicating your time to raising a family, have spent time travelling or studying, have had to take time out due to ill health or perhaps you were made redundant... Regardless of the original reason for taking a career break, the return to the workplace is never easy. However, you could also find that it is a means of reinvigorating your life, giving it renewed focus and direction.

Flexible Thinking

If you have been out of the workplace for a while, it can be easy to feel that you no longer have the skills an employer is looking for. So it can be very beneficial to try to take a good look at the period you have spent out of the workplace, not only to consider which skills you might want to brush up on, but also to identify the skills and experiences which you have gained during your period away from the workplace. Were you a member of any voluntary groups for example? If so, were you perhaps involved in organising events, even on a small scale, which may have provided you with skills (administrative, organisational, etc.) which could well be transferable to the workplace.

Research and Training

It can also be very worthwhile spending some time researching the area you are planning to work within before you begin to apply for positions. Do you intend to work in the same field as that which you were working in before your career break? If so, consider how it has changed - Are there new policy developments? Have procedures and equipment changed? If you are moving into a different field, consider which new skills you may need to learn. Armed with this knowledge you should find yourself in a much stronger position. You should find it easier to demonstrate to an employer that you are aware of the current state of play within your field and you will be able to decide whether it is necessary to update some of your skills.

If there have been advances in IT since you were last in the workplace, for example, you could perhaps take a short course to familiarise yourself with the new software packages which you deem to be important for your desired position. You may also find that some recruitment agencies will also be able to assist with training on the main software packages used in administrative positions. Some companies, especially those with bespoke software packages, may also provide in-house IT training to new employees, but you may feel more confident when you re-enter the workplace if you have already familiarised yourself with a variety of software packages.


Returning to work is likely to cause some considerable upheaval to your daily routine and it can be a good idea to consider carefully how this will impact on your life. Do you have other commitments and responsibilities which you need to maintain along side your working life? If you have a clear idea of the extent of your commitments outside of work, you should be better placed to be find a job which will allow you to fulfil them. Would it, for example, be a good idea to look for part-time work, or perhaps a position with flexible hours?

The Employer's Point of View

It can also be a good idea to try to imagine your career path from your potential employer's point of view. Particularly as your potential employer may well want to know why you took a career break. It is usually useful therefore to make sure you have thought carefully about your career, your reasons for having taken time out and, probably more importantly, your reasons for wanting to re-enter the workplace and your career ambitions for the future. Don't forget that your period away from the workplace may also have given you skills and experiences which employees who have stayed continuously in the workplace may not have - and which might just be the very attributes your potential employer is looking for!

Selling Your Skills

If you have decided to take the plunge to re-enter the work place, you need to ensure that your CV and application forms are as effective as they can be in communicating your skills and experience to potential employers.

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