Parents: 5 tips on returning to work after a career break

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If you're a parent returning to work, here's how to pick up your career - along with your confidence levels.

If you’ve been away from the workforce for a while because you’ve been bringing up children or looking after family members, the thought of finding a job again might feel daunting. As if it’s not hard enough to pluck up the courage to apply for a role, technology changes so rapidly that it can be easy to view work as a different place to how it was before you left. It’s no wonder that parents planning to return to work - especially mothers - struggle with low confidence levels.

So whether you’ve been away from the 9-to-5 grind for 18 months or 18 years (or even longer), here are some ways to help ease yourself back into a career.

1. Dust off your Linkedin

Perhaps the last time you touched your Linkedin profile was shortly before you left your last job. As a parent returning to work, it's now the most powerful social network for careers, so give it some serious TLC before you apply for anything. You never know - a potential employer might want to check you out online before they interview you.

Rather than hiding the fact you’ve been away from the workplace, consider including something along these lines in your summary section: ‘Following a parental career break, I’m looking to…’ This is good advice for your CV, too (read more on how to write the perfect CV.

Start getting into the work mindset by sharing relevant articles, following companies you might be interested in - and letting former colleagues know you’re back and ready to go. There are more tips on powering up your job search with Linkedin.

2. Dig into your smartphone

From rediscovering Linkedin to downloading job site apps, there’s plenty of job-hunting inspiration a click or swipe away.

Depending on your chosen area, don’t overlook Facebook either. Search for and join sector-specific groups where people post jobs or ask if any group members can recommend suitable candidates. And be sure to turn on notifications so you can be updated quickly. These groups often contain highly useful tips and nuggets of motivation. They can also be a great way to ease yourself get back into the workplace mindset.

Need to get up to speed on a particular industry or aspect of work? Podcasts can be invaluable - especially as you can listen along on your phone wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

3. Pitch yourself in real life too

Social media is a brilliant place to find work, but don’t forget real-life ‘in person’ contacts. In particular, the parent scene. Chances are, you’ve spent many hours with other like-minded parents and their children since you left work. Now’s the time to draw on the friendships nurtured at baby groups, nursery and the school gates. Do you know anyone who works in a similar field and knows of job opportunities?

How about wider friends and family? Or the people you meet at parties and evening events? You never know where you might bump into someone who knows of a role that’d be perfect for you to start back with. Prepare a brief pitch of what you’re looking for, and what makes you qualified for the kind of job you’re after.

4. Upskill by volunteering

Voluntary work with a charity or organisation is a way to make new contacts and boost your confidence levels as a parent returning to work. It’ll also update rusty skills and help you catch up on how things operate in the workplace after time away.

Plus, helping out beefs up your CV and Linkedin profile and gives you good stuff to talk about during an interview. Aim to find a voluntary role that will pack a powerful punch on your CV. Try to complement what’s already on there whether that's event planning, fundraising, communications or another area that’s relevant to your sector.

5. Focus on what you can offer as a parent returning to work

Parenthood’s probably given you impeccable multi-tasking, time management and negotiation skills. And you’re probably also way more resourceful than before children came along. Parents who return to work are often more enthusiastic, motivated and driven than ever. These are assets it’s worth pointing out to a future boss.

Don’t forget that bringing up children hones a multitude of skills that employers are crying out for,. So it’s time for a mindset shift. Rather than asking ‘Why would anyone employ me?’, ask yourself ‘Why would anyone not?’

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