There are lots of reasons to take a break from the workforce. Maybe it’s as a parent to look after a child, or care for a loved one, or deal with an illness. You might been made redundant, or decided to take time out to travel and gain new experiences.
Whether you haven’t worked for months or years, there may come a time when you choose to jump back onto the career ladder. So it’s sensible to safeguard against letting your skills slip, up-to-date knowledge slide and confidence slump.
Keeping your know-how fresh while you’re off means that a gap on your CV isn’t such a deal breaker to get back to work. It’s about being able to show to a potential employer that you’ve worked to maintain your knowledge and skills and can slot into your sector again.
However little time you have, take these key steps to keep engaged so you can return from your leave of absence in great shape.
You may not be physically in a workplace right now, but that needn’t mean slipping into invisibility. While tending to your LinkedIn profile inevitably slips down the to-do list when you’re not working, make an effort to spend a few minutes here and there keeping it current.
If you haven’t already, join some groups in your sector and aim to make some relevant input on discussions. But think quality, not quantity. Showcasing your expertise is adding something meaningful and well thought-out even if it’s just once a week, or month, rather than chipping in frequently with throwaway comments.
More you want to talk about? Think about creating articles or creating longer status updates. Steadily creating some content when you’re off is a way to fill in gaps on your CV and show you’re relevant when you do get back to work. More crucially, it also keeps your brain active and engaged in your career.
It’s smart to keep up to date with any developments in your sector. Thanks to email newsletters, Google keyword alerts and LinkedIn groups this couldn’t be simpler.
Podcasts are another goldmine of industry chat and news. There’s a real immediacy in hearing like-minded people who work in the same field discuss about the latest industry trends, news and developments. As well as keeping your knowledge current, podcasts can also make you feel like you’re back in the office, and you can listen on your phone wherever you are.
A top way to safeguard your career during time off is by making sure of a solid network of contacts you can turn to later for help, advice and job leads.
If you’re close to your former workmates, keeping in touch won’t be much of an effort. They’ll already be a valued source of insider gossip that you can enjoy online and in person.
But a more formal relationship with a former manager may take a bit more of an effort. So set an email reminder every month or so to touch base.
Nurturing these connections is crucial for when you do return to the workplace - plus it’s another thing that will help you feel engaged.
If your other commitments allow it, doing some regular volunteering while you’re off work can reap a host of benefits.
Volunteering will help you refine your existing skills and gain some new ones along the way.
It’s great for your CV and gives you solid interview talking points, showing potential employers new skills and that you’re still used to working in a structured environment.
Above all, it can boost your confidence and get you back in a career-based mindset. We’ve written more on why volunteering really does count, here.
Despite keeping your skills and knowledge fresh during your time off, you might wonder if you really do want to return to the same career when your break comes to an end.
Perhaps your priorities have changed or you feel a certain job isn’t the best fit for you now. A good way to find out is by taking on a temporary work contract.
It’ll give you valuable experience to help you readjust to being back at work, and you needn’t tie yourself down to one role or one employer. Some companies also run ‘returnships’, career returner programmes aimed at people who’ve taken a work break.
If you manage to keep your skills fresh and network up-to-date - however time-pressed you are - you’ll realise that being away from the workplace needn’t stop you enjoying the career you deserve.
At HR GO, we work with employers across a large range of sectors. Get in touch with us to see if we have the perfect temporary (or permanent) role for you to get back onto your career ladder.