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Getting back to work after a career break? Here’s how to make the transition smooth

Monty Majeed
posted on 2nd November 2016
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Career breaks can happen because of many reasons. The most common reason among women is taking time off to have and raise children. Some other reasons could be pursuing higher education, being a caregiver to a sick family member or pursuing any other personal or professional goal. After the break, when you do want to join the workforce again, it can seem like a daunting task. In today’s time, change happens every other day. The tools that you were familiar with may have become outdated, your ex-colleagues may have moved much ahead in the corporate ladder and, sometimes, your own interests may have changed.

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Carol Fishman Cohen, Co-founder of iRelaunch, a company that supports people re-entering the workforce after a break, and author of the book Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want To Return To Work, recounts her own experience as an example. After having children, Cohen, a Harvard Business School graduate, worked part-time for five years and raised her children full-time for the next years. When she joined the workforce back after the 11-year gap, she realised that her preferences and choices about the kind of work she does had changed tremendously. This is what made her rethink and come up with the book, which is drawn from the experiences of many stay-at-home mums who re-entered the workforce. So here are a few tips from Cohen and other experts on how you can make your transition to working full-time as smooth and problem-free as possible:

Take stock of your skill set

You may have been extremely competent at your job before you went on a break, but chances are that with time a lot has changed in the way your job is done now. So take stock of your current skill set. Take note of what all you have retained, what needs to polished, what needs to be unlearned and what needs to picked up afresh. The best way to find out what skills are in demand now is by searching for current job listings in your industry. See what all job requirements are sought frequently and make a self-assessment. This will give you an idea of where you stand in the talent pool and how long it will take for you to get back on your feet. Do not just look for the skills you do not have, also list out the skills that you have picked up during your break. Parents who took off to raise kids need not feel left out as they may have picked up more valuable skills like multi-tasking and problem-solving that will help one grow professionally.

Bridge the skills gap

Now that you know what skills you need to get back on your feet, find ways to update them. Enrol for a short course if needed to add some in-demand skills to your resume. You could try out online courses, too, but make sure you do one that gives you an authentic certification. If you are going to head for a new industry altogether, this is the time to research and study about it thoroughly. Decide on what course to take keeping in mind the size of the career shift you are marking or the amount of skill refreshment you need.

Network, network and network

Whichever stage of your career you are in, there is no substitute for networking. People, and the relationships you forge with them, are the key to your professional life. Additionally, if you were raising children during your break, you would have become really good at this. You would have gotten past all the awkward stages of meeting new people as you mingle and connect with new parents. Those who take a break from work, remember not to cut off all your professional contacts. Keep in touch with them and when you are ready to start looking for a job, let it be known that you are actively looking.

Build an online presence

Spruce up your social media accounts, update information on your LinkedIn account and create a searchable online presence. Social media is inevitable in this time and age, with a 2015 Jobvite survey revealing that about 92 percent recruiters use it in their hiring process. You can use social media to reach out to your old connections and let them know that you are looking for opportunities. You can also keep yourself updated with the industry news and trends.

Deal with your resume gap

Do not be traumatised because of the gap in your resume and try to mask it with wrong or false information. You don’t need to put it out there in bold letters and give it undue attention also. One way to deal with this gap is by doing away with the conventional chronological resume. Make a hybrid resume, which projects your skills, experience and qualities to make you stand out from the crowd. Be sure to design your resume to suit the job that you are applying for rather than sending out the same document for all available positions. Also, you can talk about the gap and how you productively spent your time during it in the cover letter that accompanies your resume.

Job hunting is never the most pleasant experience in our professional lives. It is trying time, especially so if you are getting back into the workforce after a break. Be confident of your skills and look for firms that support those like you. For instance, there are companies that offer returnships, which are like a mid-career version of an internship, specifically designed for people who are getting back after a break and also leaves the option of future absorption open. So don’t give up, try your best and the transition back into work will be smoother than ever.

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