Have you taken a career break to start a family, taken time out following a redundancy or perhaps been looking after a loved one who is ill? Or maybe you decided to step back from work to enjoy different experiences, such as travelling the world?
According to Mintel, you’re not alone. At least 90,000 people every year in the UK – 60 per cent of them women – take some sort of career break. Whatever motives you have for taking a career break, there may come a time when you decide to jump back into work and look for your ideal job. Getting a new job can be daunting enough at any time, but it can be even more unnerving and difficult once you’ve taken a break from work, especially when there are bills to be paid. Employers tend to have a bias towards candidates with strong recent experience, but if you feel you’re in this situation, here are five effective insights to help increase your chances of landing your ideal job following a career break:
1. Stop, assess and plan
It’s very important to take the time to assess your situation and to understand what your ideal work looks like. If you can figure that out, you’ll give yourself the best chance of landing your ideal job. Many people make the mistake of diving in and taking the first job they find, but it pays to be strategic and to zoom out, understand and map out your current work situation. Take the time to figure out how your values, personality and aptitudes play an important role in your career choices and get crystal clear on what you want out of your working life – even if you think you already know what you want to do. Once you’ve done that, you can define what ideal work looks like to you and create a vision for your ideal job.
2. Work on your mindset and set yourself up for success
Job hunting at any point in your career is tough. Rejection is unfortunately going to be a part of any job hunt at some point, which is why having a strong mindset is so important. Google for example receive over 2 million applications per year, and hire 0.02% of them – so that’s a lot of people rejected each year! Mindset is truly the unsung hero of any job hunt or career change. Detox any negative thought patterns and program your mind for success. Realise any glass ceilings and limiting beliefs that you have. To further set yourself up for success, put all your goals on a timeline, deciding which ones to hit in the next 30 days. If you’re feeling ignored or ghosted by an employer check out this article: https://www.withchriskelly.com/blog/everbeenghosted If you’re struggling to keep going with your search, read this article: https://www.withchriskelly.com/blog/beatburnoutjobseekers
3. Prepare your tools, including your CV
It’s common for a candidate to believe that a gap in their CV will hurt their chances of landing their ideal job and the temptation is to lie. Honesty is definitely the best policy. Most good employers and hiring managers realise that people have lives outside of work, and sometimes an individual’s career has to take a backseat. Talk about your career break in positive terms and see it as a something to differentiate you from other candidates. A break can give you lots of benefits that can make you just as, if not more hireable than other candidates.
When writing your CV, think about how the skills and experience you’ve acquired in your break relate to the position you’re applying for. You may have taken a course or qualification in a certain field, you may have carried out some volunteering work to boost a certain skill-set like organisation, or you may have travelled the world to boost your confidence and independence. Even if you’ve taken a break to assess your career and re-charge, you’ll likely have far more energy and perspective than say a candidate who has been working full time and not had a break. Make sure your CV is the best it can be. I have a free guide here that will give you some important tips and insights: www.withchriskelly.com/free-guide Getting your LinkedIn profile and cover letters as strong as possible is also super important!
4. Network for opportunities and look for return to work programs
After seeing thousands of successful and unsuccessful job applications there’s one key thing that separates whether you land an interview or not: and that is networking. Why is networking so important, you ask? LinkedIn, for example, estimate that 64% of job seekers get hired through a referral. According to a recent study 85% of jobs are filled via networking of some sort. I wrote an article on 3 ways you can use networking to land more job interviews, check it out here: https://www.withchriskelly.com/blog/3waystolandmorejobinterviews
Also look for return to work programs that companies offer. In the UK, Deloitte and Amazon Web Services both run significant programs, check them out here:
5. Prepare effectively and know your worth
Before any interview, make sure you prepare fully. Do your research on the company and who you are meeting. Look at their website and social media channels. Know who their competitors are, read the latest industry news and trends. Knowing that you’ve prepared and have done your homework will help you to feel confident during interviews. A company will surely ask you about your career break, so make sure you’re prepared to answer the question. As with your CV, honesty is important. Be clear about what you did during your break and don’t try to skim over it as that can raise concerns in an interviewers mind. If you are open about why you decided it was the right thing for you to do then employers and hiring managers will appreciate it.
In the same way you wrote your CV, tailor your verbal answers so that they relate to the role you’re applying to and talk about the benefit of your experience during your break. If you can preempt any concerns that an interview has that it will stand you in great stead. For example they will probably be wondering how quickly you can hit the ground running having been out of a paid job for some time. In this case, explain upfront how you’ve kept busy and kept your mind sharp, whilst emphasising your commitment, passion and drive to get started quickly.
When you’ve had a career break, it’s also easy to under-value yourself. There can sometimes be a stigma from employers around candidates who’ve had a break and what they’ve done in that time, but it’s important to realise that you are enough and that although other candidates may have more recent direct experience it doesn’t mean that they are necessarily the best candidate. Skills (including those gained across different experiences, paid or unpaid), qualifications and attitude are all key factors in deciding who gets the job, not just experience.
It’s important to realise that everyone has their own path and your career break should be viewed as a positive factor, even if it came about through negative circumstances. The above 5 insights are of course a starting point and there’s so much more you can do. So many professionals are tired of feeling frustrated with their job search or career, so I created a 3 step online program that helps them land their ideal job, love their career and achieve happiness in working life. You can start your journey here: https://www.withchriskelly.com/5-steps