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How to hit the ground running after a career break

There are many reasons why you might have to put your career on pause for a while, whether it’s bringing up kids, taking care of elderly relatives, or just pursuing a personal passion such as travel. And that means relaunching your career is increasingly a rite of passage.

But that doesn’t make it easy: you might worry about whether your skills are up to date or what employers will think about the gap in your CV. Don’t forget that you have advantages too, though. In a TED Talk on returning to work that more than three million people have watched, Carol Fishman Cohen says: “We have an energy and enthusiasm about returning to work precisely because we’ve been away.”

Here are some ideas on making sure that enthusiasm counts.


Update your CV

Polishing your CV is an opportunity to think about your new career plan and to remind yourself of your skills. But you’ll need to address the gaps; experts say you have two options.

Either you can explicitly but briefly state you were out of the workforce and why. Or you can write a hybrid CV, which switches the focus away from the timeline and onto skills and experience.  “A hybrid CV will distract the reader from the gap and let them focus on the skills and experience you can bring,” says Sarah Archer, founder of CareerTree.


Reconnect with your old colleagues and contacts

Many of the best job leads come from personal connections, so don’t just scour the online ads – contact everyone you know and tell them you’re relaunching your career and looking for a new position.

Don’t worry that people might think you are out of touch: you’re more likely to find getting in touch with former colleagues restores your professional self-image. As Cohen says, “People’s view of you is frozen in time. They only remember you as you were – it’s a great confidence boost.”


Refresh your skills

Some industries move fast, and your knowledge can quickly become obsolete. Cohen says many employers are concerned about the IT skills of returners, so a college course can help ensure you have all the tricks and tips you need.

Both the government and the private sector are now offering return-to-work programmes – dedicated opportunities for people coming back from career breaks where they can refresh their skills and ease back into the workforce. You can also download a detailed “Returner Toolkit’ from, designed to help those who have had a career break for 12 months or more.


Know your rights

If you’re returning from parental leave, you might be unable to resume the same schedule as before you had a family. Luckily, employers are increasingly aware that flexible working helps attract a broader range of talent.

“Increasing numbers of innovative employers are changing their approach to finding new talent and are focusing more on output achieved, than time put in getting there, says career coach Inger Christensen. Either way, you have a legal right to request flexible hours, and you can appeal, so take some time to consider how flexible working could make for a smoother transition back into work.

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