People take a career break for a variety of reasons. The most common are family leave and overseas travel. By far the largest representation within this group are women who spend a number of years raising children and staying home with family. This is by no means a generic statement as tough economic conditions has resulted in more people taking a minimum of 6 to 12 months off work.
It is not uncommon for us to provide professional resume writing services to clients who have not been working for a number of years. This is a challenging situation. In a competitive job market getting noticed requires relevant and recent experience. Here are some practical tips for re-entering the workforce after a significant break.
Research the Job Market: it is important to understand the market you are entering and any change that may have occurred. Typically this relates to computer skills and programs. For example if you have experience in an earlier version of Microsoft Office this may not be applicable to current positions and requirements. Conduct research in relation to the duties and expectations of positions you are applying for to determine what relevant skills you may offer and how these are applicable.
Skills section: We have mentioned a transferable skills section within resumes on a number of occasions. This transferable skills section is essential to informing employers of your current capability and knowledge. When there is a significant career break using this section will demonstrate to an employer exactly what you have to offer.
Think outside the square: You may not have worked for a long period of time however there will be opportunities to maintain knowledge, skills and employable qualities. On many occasions this can relate to volunteer work, involvement in sporting clubs and any additional study. Don’t undervalue the skills and experience gained in these situations. Often generic skills can be maintained such as interacting with people, following instructions and working within a multidisciplinary environment. Detail these experiences in your resume to demonstrate you have maintained employable skills.
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Maintain relationships: One of the most difficult aspects of a career break is finding relevant referees that can testify to your capability. If you intend to apply for Government positions and some private sector roles referees will be important. Maintain some relationships with previous work colleagues to ensure the availability of referees in the event they are required. This may seem a small issue however in a competitive market referees can mean the difference between being successful and winning a job.
Time for a change: Many people use a career break to re-evaluate their direction. Common examples include people who undertake volunteer work within schools, assist friends with businesses or undertake small projects such as house renovation. A large break from employment is an opportunity to reassess your skills and perhaps take your career in a new direction. Again it is important to record and maintain a professional resume that highlights any new skills or capabilities.
Re-entering the job market after a significant break can be challenging. Look for every opportunity to increase your chances of success and maintain an up-to-date and relevant resume that will attract employers and demonstrate your knowledge and capability.
Best of luck in applying for positions.