Summer return to work action plan – updated blog

With the summer holidays just around the corner, it may be tempting to push thoughts about returning to work to the back of your mind. However organisations tend to start hiring again and launching new returner programmes in early September, so taking some time over the break to focus on you and your job search could pay dividends.

Here are a variety of simple ways in which you can lay strong foundations now – while taking a much-needed break – so you’ll be in a good position for an autumn return to work.

Build your return-to-work criteria

If you’re considering what to do next, think back on previous work roles, or activities that you’ve done during your career break, that you found fulfilling and reflect on what made them so.

Factors that you find fulfilling are related to your strengths and values and understanding these will give you vital clues as to what you could do next. You may want to return to your old field of work; you may decide to take elements from your past roles and identify a new one or you may find you have an idea for a new business or a desire to retrain in a new area.

If you’re able to identify new skills you’d like to acquire or skills you want to refresh, summer is a good time to research any online/in-person courses which often start in September.  See our resources signposts here for lots of helpful links.  You could also look into volunteering opportunities for September which could help upskill you in a new area.

Create your network map

It doesn’t matter if you’re not yet ready to start networking, creating your network map takes time and the sooner you can start the better. This is an ideal task to tackle during the holidays as it can be done in small chunks whenever you have some spare time.

Begin by creating three lists. In the first, put everyone you can think of from your past: people you knew at school and university, friends you may not have seen for a long time, and former colleagues from previous roles. In the second, list everyone you know now: neighbours, friends, parents from your children’s school, local community acquaintances, people you’ve met through your hobbies or volunteering. In the third, try to think of future networks and groups it would be useful to join: professional associations, local women’s networks, LinkedIn groups etc.

Even if you start by thinking that you don’t have a network, you’ll be surprised how quickly your map grows and how many people you can potentially connect with when the time comes.

Practise your introduction

Having a clear and confident intro that captures your breadth of experience and current interests often takes  time  to finesse! Take advantage of the opportunities over the summer when you might be meeting new people on holiday to practice telling your career story. You can test out and refine your answer to the often-dreaded question – ‘What do you do?’ Try using our Career Break Sandwich model, starting with your past work experience, then talking about your career break and finishing with what you want to do in the future. Hopefully by the end of the summer you will feel much more confident about talking about your skills, experience and aims for the future.

Get your family on board!

If you’re a parent, your return to work will be a lot smoother if you have the support and co-operation of your partner and children. The long summer holiday will give you plenty of time to consider what changes will need to be made and how best to prepare your family. For younger children, think about a new school drop-off/pickup routine or new after school clubs. Older children may need to be encouraged to take on more responsibility such as preparing their own packed lunches. The holidays are a great time to teach your children new skills that will help them adjust to and share your excitement about your return to work.

Taking some well-deserved space and time over the summer to continue moving forwards in your return to work action plan will help set you up for success in the autumn! Have a great summer!

What to Wear to Return-To-Work Interviews

When you are returning to work after a career break, it is often hard to know what to wear for interviews, especially if you have been out of the workplace for a number of years. With so much having changed over the last couple of years with the pandemic, we know that many returners feel that even more acutely now. But we also know that feeling comfortable and confident at interview is really important and can help you to perform at your best. Ella from Smart Works recently joined us for a webinar for members of our Professional Network to discuss how to feel at your best when dressing for an interview. These are her 3 top tips:

1. Wear colour

If you like wearing colour, then you absolutely should wear it to your interview. Wear colours that make you feel confident and that suit you. Even if you have to keep an overall neutral or darker colour palette, add a splash of colour with your top or accessories. As many candidates stick to a more neutral palette, colour can be another way to stand out and help the recruiter to remember you.

2. Buy for the longer term 

If you can afford it, choose high quality clothing that will work for your interview and beyond. Think about options that can be restyled with accessories for different occasions and that could form a good part of your usual working wardrobe.

3. Dress for a virtual interview like for an in-person one

Dress fully from head to toe.  Even if the interviewer is likely to only see part of you, dressing fully helps you to be in the right frame of mind. That means no pyjama bottoms or anything else that fails to put you in your most professional mindset!

Natalie Hunter, a trained Colour/Style Consultant, adds her advice.

4. Dress as though you already work there

Research the organisation to understand the usual dress code. Follow them on social media and see if there is a kind of ‘uniform’ or a more diverse range of outfits.  Dress so that the interviewer(s) can see you immediately as someone who would fit in. If the dress code looks to be very informal, e.g. jeans, err on the side of ‘smart casual’ such as a tailored pair of trousers with a top/jacket in a colour or a more creative dress.

5. Choose something that reflects you

Find some common ground between what sort of outfit would reflect the brand and what feels representative of you. For example, if you are interviewing with a traditional city firm, and yet your natural style is more contemporary, choose a tailored dress or suit with a more cutting-edge style and team it with a statement necklace or a coloured bag. While you want to fit in, you want to retain a sense of who you are and be remembered for this.

If you usually live in jeans and jumpers, find a smarter outfit that still feels comfortable. There are lots of work clothes that fit this brief, eg tailored trousers in soft fabrics look great with a crisp shirt/soft silky top, gently structured jacket and brogues or loafers (flat or heeled). Now is perhaps not the time to experiment with a whole new look that doesn’t feel like you.

6. Update yourself

Some ‘classic’ work clothes that you’ve kept may stand the test of time but, more often, some details (eg width of collar, shoulder padding) will make them look dated. Wearing dated clothing might affect how comfortable you feel, so aim for a more contemporary look. Research online to see the latest styles. Pinterest pulls together lots of ideas in one place, saving you precious time.

7. Choose colours that flatter you

Your best colours will be those that match your natural characteristics on the following 3 scales: Deep or Light, Warm or Cool, Bright or Muted. So, if your natural colouring is Light, Cool and Muted (not much contrast between eyes, lips, hair, skin tone) consider greys and blues without much contrast between them, as opposed to black. Black tends only to suit those who have Deep, Cool and Bright characteristics. For the rest of us, it can drain us and cast unflattering shadows on our faces. Cool colours are considered to be more business-like (i.e. colours with more blue in than yellow) so, if you suit warmer colours, try to find warmer versions of, for example, navy and grey.

8. Be comfortable

Give your outfit a test run by wearing it at home for a while to check that it’s comfortable, both when standing and sitting. Make sure that buttons on shirts/blouses don’t gape, skirts don’t ride up when you sit down. Check hems are in place, no loose buttons or marks/creases, etc. Choose shoes that are comfortable to walk in (flats shoes are much more usual now, even for city roles).

9. Plan your outfit in advance

Choose your outfit well in advance, so you can then give your full attention to the most important aspect: mental preparation and avoiding a last-minute panic. Above all, spending some time choosing the right outfit will enable you to look and feel more confident on the day.

This is an updated version of an original blog by Natalie Hunter, a trained Colour/Style Consultant with additional tips from Ella of Smart Works. Smart Works is a charity which provides an Interview outfit, free of charge, as well as an hour of one-to-one Interview coaching by a trained volunteer for unemployed women referred to them by job centres and other charities.

Navigating a Successful Return – Advice from Returners

At our 2022 Women Returners Conference, several inspirational return-to-work stories were highlighted on the Returner Panel, with the theme of Navigating a Successful Return to Work. Ably hosted by radio broadcaster Jane Garvey, four women shared their successful stories of relaunching their careers, after breaks of 4 to 30 years, within the fields of medicine, banking, data science and recruitment.

Jane asked the panel for their top tips for other women professionals wanting to successfully navigate a return to work. Here’s a summary of some of their excellent advice:

  • Don’t let a long career break put you off! Value the things that you’ve done in your career break. You might think you’ve done nothing – “I’ve just looked after three small children” – but spend some time reflecting on it. List all the things you have done, and the skills you have used, to demonstrate the different competencies and skills you have developed during your career break and which you can bring to your new role.
  • If you’re looking to return to a new area of work after your career break, look into different courses that can help you to upskill. There are many free courses available online that you can sign up to – check out what might appeal here. Upskilling will not only help you to test whether it’s the right career move for you, but it will also demonstrate your proactivity, enable you to talk confidently about your chosen area at interview, grow your network by meeting others exploring the same area and hopefully boost your professional confidence.
  • Read the Success Stories on the Women Returners website (http://womenreturners.com/returners/success-stories/) as a great source of inspiration on days where you feel low.
  • Reach out to other people who are doing the role you’d like to do to test whether it’s a good fit, to ask their advice and to explore potential routes in. Use LinkedIn to connect – sending a message rather than just a connection request is more likely to get you a response.
  • Ensure you have an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn so that you can be found by recruiters!
  • Don’t give up! Even if you apply for jobs and get nothing after requesting feedback. Keep trying. If you persist, the right job will come.
  • When you start a role, ask questions, throw yourself into everything, aim to learn as much as you can and to meet a range of people.
  • Believe in yourself! It’s very normal to have doubts as you return to work and to feel fearful, but this is very common and will quickly go away once you’re back to work.

These returner stories were incredibly inspiring and a real highlight of the Conference. It’s great to see how building self-belief, reflecting on the skills learned during your career break, looking for successful role models, and tenacity and perseverance have helped others to successfully return to fulfilling work.

For more inspiring stories of returning women, listen and subscribe to our Career Returners Podcast, out fortnightly on Wednesdays.

Why ‘back to school’ is a good time to focus on your return to work

The nights are already drawing in and soon there’ll be an autumnal chill in the air. Many people have that ‘back to school’ feeling at this time of year – whether they have children or not – as the move into September can feel like a new beginning – more like New Year than New Year itself.

And it’s a great time to focus on a return-to-work as businesses return to full strength after the lull of July and August and start hiring again. You may also have taken time over the summer to relax and now feel refreshed, revitalised and raring to go. This can get your return-to-work off to a flying start!

Here are our top tips to capitalise on that ‘back to school’ feeling:

1. Getting started

Two of the most important things to nail when you start thinking about returning to work are clarity and focus. It’s therefore important to begin by taking the time to develop your return to work career direction as this will save you wasting time and energy on unhelpful job-hunting strategies.

If you’re struggling to decide what kind of role to look for it’s worth bearing in mind that studies consistently show that one of the key things that make us happy at work is using our strengths. Read our blogs for advice on how to identify your strengths and your unique strengths combination.

Once you have carefully considered your reasons for returning to work and what you want to do, you may find that you have too few choices or too many choices and therefore need to work on these. Taking the time to focus on your options at this stage will maximise your chances of success.

2. Making progress

Once you are clear on your career direction and the kind of roles you want to look for you’ll need to put together a great post-break CVoptimise your LinkedIn profile and brush up on your interview technique.

If you find yourself thinking things like ‘I’m too old to move into a new area’ or ‘I’m hopeless at networking’, these can be signs that you may have a fixed mindset, and this could impede your progress. Read our blog on how developing a growth mindset can improve your chances of finding a satisfying and fulfilling role.

Perhaps your professional confidence has taken a knock if you’ve had an extended career break – hardly surprising considering how much of our identity is tied up with our work. We have some top tips for boosting confidence and advice on how to look more confident than you really are.

Read our tips on how to be a successful returner candidate and also advice from people who have successfully returned to work. The advice from employers for returners on recognising your value can be especially helpful.

3. Keeping going

Looking for a new role after an extended career break can sometimes feel overwhelming and the inevitable setbacks may mean sustained motivation – so necessary for success – can wane. Read our advice on how to stay motivated in your return to work job search.

If you find yourself becoming demotivated – our stories from women who have successfully navigated a return to work will help give you encouragement and reassurance.

4. Accelerating your return to work

Our annual Back to Your Future Conference – online on 11 October 2022 – is a fantastic way to turbo-charge your return to work. Find out more about how the one-day event can help you to get back to rewarding work here.

You’ll find lots more help in the advice hub on our website. And don’t forget to sign up to our Women Returners Professional Network for information, inspiration, connections and advice.

Note: 2022 update of archive post

Advance preparation for your return to work

Is your return to work getting closer? This is the perfect time to get started to prepare for your return. Don’t wait for a job application or an offer, as advance planning can help you feel much calmer and more in control as interviews or your start date approaches.

We’d recommend tackling your preparation on three fronts: professional/technical, practical and – the bit we often forget – mental. Here are some tips for each of these.

Professional/technical preparation

Take steps to bring your knowledge back up-to-date. Resubscribing to professional journals or related press can help you to reconnect with your old sector and to understand any major developments, as well as new language or acronyms.

If you feel that your skills are rusty, there are lots of free online courses through websites such as coursera, udacity and Digital Garage, to name just a few which can help fill any skills gaps.

Get in touch with ex-colleagues and meet in person close to their work if you can. This is a good time to reconnecting with ‘dormant’ contacts through LinkedIn, particularly those colleagues you were once close to but have lost touch with in recent years. This gets you back in a professional setting and location, talking about you, your interests and the experience you bring. In turn, this can really help to boost your professional confidence. Talking about your career story with them can also help you to refine your narrative, which is very useful for when you’re meeting your new colleagues.

Practical preparation

Having practical support networks in place can really ease some of the stresses when you return to work. It helps to keep the focus on you and having the best possible start. If you’re going to need childcare, look into this asap to give yourself a good window to settle your child in before you start. And also think of your Plan B – who can look after them if they’re unwell? If you have other responsibilities, say for elderly parents, think about how you will fit in or change the care you provide now once you return.

Reflect on your current week, with all your commitments, and then consider how this will work once you add employment into the mix. With only 24 hours in a day, you’ll need to think about what you can delegate. Think about both chores and housework, and voluntary and community activities you may be involved in. Consider what you can start cutting back on or passing on, such as volunteering activities, and what other support you might be able to bring in. Get practiced at saying ‘no’ to free up your day.

This is a great time to get any other members of your household more engaged in domestic life and sharing the load! For mothers, start to delegate more to your children and encourage their independence. If you’re the default taxi driver, still ferrying your older children around, let them get used to public transport. Same with your partner, if you have one – start to hand over and share out more of the home responsibilities.

Think carefully about how work can fit with your life. Map out a balanced work week for you. When do you want/need to be at home & what for? And critically, work out what you are not going to do any more at home. You’ll need to be flexible about how this might pan out once you get into job discussions, but being clearer on your non-negotiables will help you to target the right opportunities.

Mental preparation

One of the things we often see with returners is that their professional confidence takes a hit whilst they’re on a career break. The professional preparation will help to boost your confidence, as you reconnect with the professional you and get clear on the strengths and experience you’d like to bring to your new role. Remember, your skills are still there despite your break, even if your knowledge might be a little rusty.

Spending time with supporters and those championing your return will increase your energy and enthusiasm for getting back to work and will help you to overcome any self-doubt or imposter syndrome! Sharing your excitement about returning to work with family members will get them involved in your journey and rooting for you as well as accepting of the inevitable changes that will come once you start work.

Seeing other people in similar situations succeed can also be a real motivator. Listen to our Career Returners podcast to hear the return to work stories of 9 inspirational women, and read our library of returner success stories on our website – if they can do it there’s no reason why you can’t! You can also read their advice for future returners to give you more tips.

And finally, don’t forget to take time for self-care. This is easy to forget in a busy life, but as important now in navigating the ups and downs of this return to work journey, as it will be when you start work.

 

 

Return to Work Book Recommendations

My bedside table has a wobbly stack of books on it. There’s usually a ‘Top 10 bestseller fiction’ I’m half way through, a few well-worn novels that have been passed around the womenfolk in my family, and then there’s 1 or 2 non-fiction books that I dip into and re-read for inspiration, and which somehow never find their way back to my bookshelf!

The Women Returners team were recently ‘WhatsApping’ about those non-fiction books that have inspired us in our coaching work and we wanted to share our 8 favourite books with you. Our hope is that, wherever you are in your return to work journey, they give you a little lift and some practical tools too!

If you’re wondering how to get started

How to get a job you love – John Lees  A careers guide which will help you reflect on what you want to do now, and how you can take those first few steps

If you’re unclear about how to make sense of your career path and what you’ll bring to a new role

The Squiggly Career – ditch the ladder, discover opportunity, design your career – Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis  A brilliant practical guide to help you understand your strengths, values, motivators and explore future possibilities

If you’re thinking about a complete career change 
 
Working Identity – Herminia Ibarra  A research-based perspective on the “test and learn’ approach to making a successful change, with stories of professionals who have reinvented their careers
 
If fear is stopping you from moving forwards and achieving your goals
 

Mind Flip – change the way you think about yourself and reinvent your future – Zena Everett  Will help you to adjust your mindset, helping you to flip your focus away from yourself and instead look outwards to the value you can uniquely bring

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway – Susan Jeffers  A self-help classic, backed by psychological research into self-confidence, providing practical strategies to get past your fears

If you find yourself setting limits on what you can achieve or should aspire to

Playing Big – Tara Mohr  An intuitive step-by-step guide that helps you overcome doubt and pursue your aspirations

If you’re wondering how you can maintain your sense of balance through your return to work journey 

Thrive – the third  metric to redefining success and creating a happier life – Arianna Huffington  Focuses on the transformative effects of meditation, mindfulness, unplugging and giving and how these are integral to personal success and leading a healthy, productive, and meaningful life

What Happy Working Mothers Know – Cathy Greenberg and Barrett Avigdor  Takes findings from positive psychology to help you to create a work-family balance

 
This is only a selection of our favourites from the hundreds of relevant books out there. We’d love to hear your recommendations for books that you’ve found useful during your own return to work, so do let us know on our Facebook group or Facebook page or on Instagram about any books that have inspired you.
 
 Happy Reading!
 

 

Posted by Karen, Women Returners Head of Coaching

Interview with Women Returners’ Head of Coaching

In this blog, we speak to Women Returners’ Head of Coaching, Karen Danker, about her background, why she joined Women Returners, what her role entails and her hopes for the future…

What is your professional background, Karen?

I started my career as a solicitor and then moved to a City law firm to run their graduate recruitment and development function. After a brief career break in the US with my young family, I returned to the UK and joined Women Like Us (now Timewise), a brilliant flexible working consultancy, where I first gained real insight into the challenges women often faced returning to work after a career break. I loved working with them to help them find quality flexible work that matched their seniority and skills, and to provide great talent to organisations. Most recently, I worked in the charity sector, running leadership development programmes for young adults and professional women. The common thread that’s run through my different roles has been this real driver to enable others to develop and flourish so that they can fulfil their potential in line with their skills and values.
Why did you decide to join Women Returners?

I’d known about Women Returners for quite a long time and had been following their progress. I was really excited about what they were doing – championing a route back to work that really helped maximise the success for returners. I also knew they were a voice within Government and had built partnerships with big corporates. I was excited by the impact they were having. 

Their values also chimed with mine – and that’s become increasingly important to me as I’ve got older. Their aim to make a positive difference to society was a key driver for me. They’re professional, innovative and ambitious and that for me makes them a really dynamic organisation to be part of.

What is your role at Women Returners?

I joined in January 2019 focusing on one-to-one coaching at first. As Head of Coaching, the main part of my role now is to be the focal point for our brilliant team of coaches and to make sure we continue to innovate, evolve and develop our materials and resources – and, of course, ourselves as coaches.

What do you think makes Women Returners’ coaching work?

Firstly, we have a team of really skilled, talented coaches with backgrounds in the corporate world. They understand both our clients’ business needs and the experience of being on a long career break and the challenges of returning to a professional role. They’re also incredibly warm and empathetic people. So for returners who start on day one feeling a little anxious about returning to work, our coaches really help them start well and progress successfully.

Secondly, we work with our clients from the beginning to understand what their business needs are so that we can tailor a programme to support them. A key objective for us is to set up programmes for success from the onset. We offer initial training for a client’s recruitment team and line managers so that they understand upfront the return-to-work marketplace and the practical steps they need to put into place to allow returners to perform at their best both at interview and when they join the organisation. 

For returnship programmes, we run our Career Returners Coaching Programme which has been specifically tailored to address the practical and psychological challenges faced by professionals re-entering the workforce. The coaching workshops are very effective as they coincide with various transition stages the returners are going through. Our coaching for supported hire roles follows a similar pathway. The coaching is tailored to the group or individual and includes building professional confidence, sustainable working patterns, networking skills and action-planning for success.

We also offer a variety of Return to Work coaching for individuals outside of our corporate programmes, which include CV, LinkedIn and interview preparation coaching. 

We get fantastic feedback so we know the process works!

Finally, how do you see the job market for returners developing?
My hope is that, with people having longer working lives, taking career breaks for all sorts of reasons will become the norm. I’d also like to see supported routes back into work become a normal part of any recruitment strategy to find senior talent. I’d like to see all returners have the ability to hit ‘play’ on their ambitions and careers knowing that they will be sought-after by top organisations. And when they do return, to know that they will be supported, trained and mentored so that they can get back up to speed really quickly. I hope all organisations will recognise that if they’re not doing this they are missing out on some great talent.

 

 

Sign up to our free network for more advice, support and job opportunities. You’ll find much more help and advice on our website.

 

Return to work planning for your financial wellbeing

Our guest blogger, Ian Simons from the Chartered Insurance Institute, highlights some financial aspects to consider when returning to work.
Planning your return to work is a great opportunity to take stock of your current financial situation and plan for your future. The tips below, taken from the Insuring Women’s FuturesFinancial Wellbeing Guide, show how you can actively engage in your own financial life journey and also raise awareness of the financial Perils and Pitfalls facing women.

Engaging in your own financial life journey

As you return or search for work you should consider the below:
1. When researching potential employers take time to compare financial packages, pensions and perks

2. Research the gender pay gap – reporting legislation requires employers with 250 or more employees to publish statutory calculations annually

3. Understand employers’ opportunities for flexible workers – openly disclosing policies is a good sign

4. Find out from potential employers what are the career prospects for returners and those with family commitments and are there carer policies?

5. When you start a new job, check out your employer’s pension arrangements, free employer contributions and tax deductions, and fully consider joining the pension scheme. If there are options on how much to contribute, you might be surprised how much bigger your pension pot could be if you paid in at a higher rate, together with the added ‘free employer and tax relief money’

6. If you want to work part-time, in multiple jobs or temporarily, think carefully about how you can maximise your workplace pensions (including any existing policies you may have) and any eligibility criteria
that might preclude you. Reflect on whether you might be inadvertently missing out on valuable contributions

We encourage you to read the full Financial Wellbeing Guide, in particular the re-entering the workforce section, to review your personal situation in more detail.

Arming yourself with knowledge

Once you have assessed your specific situation there are many places you can go for more information including:

  • Insuring Women’s Futures website: The resource page contains research, videos and links to useful websites and tools
  • ACAS website: You can find out more here on equal pay and gender pay gap reporting
  • Your employer: Once you are back at work, many workplaces run sessions for returners or have helplines
  • Your existing pension provider: Find out the position of your existing pension schemes and understand your options for reinvestment and transferral
  • An independent financial adviser: If you need further financial advice, you can search for a qualified, local financial adviser on Findanadviser

Empowering others

This November, Insuring Women’s Futures are running a campaign called Talk 2 10K. They are challenging as many people as possible to talk to at least 10 other people about women’s financial wellbeing. To get involved all you need to do is:

  • Read the toolkit and watch the webinar
  • Organise your conversations (these can be anything from a chat with a friend to a formal session with colleagues)
  • Spend a few minutes on 21 November sharing an anecdote, photo or video from your conversations on social media – make sure to use the following in your posts – #MakeEachMomentCount #InsuringFutures #WomensFinancialWellbeing and @CII


Ian Simons is Marketing Director at the Chartered Insurance Institute. 

Sign up to our free Women Returners network for more advice, support and job opportunities. You’ll find much more help and advice on our website.

Returning to work? Don’t let Imposter Syndrome hold you back

Do you sometimes feel that you don’t deserve your success or that your achievements are flukes that can be put down to just good luck? Do you feel that it’s only a matter of time until you are ‘found out’?

If you do then you’re certainly not alone. These feelings are so common they have a name – Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome was first identified by psychologists in 1978. There are three defining features: a belief that others have an inflated view of your abilities, a fear that your true abilities will be found out, and a tendency to attribute your success to luck or extreme effort. There have been many studies into Imposter Syndrome since then, including one in 2011 that found that 70% of people will experience the phenomenon at some point in their lives. And it’s not just a ‘women’s issue’ –  research now suggests that men are just as likely as women to experience impostorism. 

Imposter Syndrome is most common when we’re moving out of our comfort zone and facing periods of change or uncertainty … such as returning to work after a long career break.

If Imposter Syndrome strikes, here are our tips to help you tackle it:

1. Remember these feelings are normal. Imposter Syndrome can affect anyone, even people who seem to be the most confident and capable. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg has been quoted as saying: “There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.” And even Albert Einstein considered himself an “involuntary swindler.” 

2. Avoid putting your successes down to luck. Write down all your career and personal achievements to date, and think about the role that your abilities and hard work played. It will become clear to you that your successes were largely due to your hard work and abilities – not ‘just luck’. Read this blog for advice. 

3. Reconnect with your professional self. If you’re doubting yourself because it’s been a while since you were in the workplace, remember that you are the same professional person you always were, you are just out of practice. Aim to reframe your time outside the workplace as a positive not a negative.

4. Ask friends and family for feedback on your strengths and skills.
 Listening to what others say about what you do well will help you challenge your negative thoughts. Remember – you’re often your own harshest critic.

5. Keep a feedback log. Once you’re back in a new role, keep a log of all the positive feedback you receive – via formal feedback sessions, thank you emails or verbal compliments. If Imposter Syndrome does hit, look at this log to remind yourself that you are a competent and experienced professional who deserves to be where you are.


Sign up to our free network for more advice, support and job opportunities.You’ll find much more help and advice on our website.

Why your career break is a positive not a negative

There are lots of reasons for a career break – to care for young children or other relatives, for health reasons, to study, to travel or simply to recharge your batteries.


Far from being something to try to hide when you want to return to the workplace, there are very good reasons why you – and your potential employers – should celebrate your break.

We know from experience that returners re-enter the workplace with a fresh perspective, together with renewed energy and motivation. Employers value this too. At our Women Returners ‘Back to Your Future’ Conference 2019, O2’s Andrea Jones told the audience:

“There’s so much experience the returners have before their career break and they’ve gained so many skills on their career break. They come in with a really fresh pair of eyes….they can look at our processes and our systems and the ways we work quite differently. I think it’s a real breath of fresh air – and that’s what we hear from our managers.”

Other employers spoke about the enthusiasm of the returners they had hired, the fact that they are incredibly efficient as time management comes more naturally to them, and their desire to contribute more broadly to the organisation rather than just doing their job. Returners were also valued as role models for younger employees of people who had taken a non-traditional career path.

Dependent on the reason for your career break, you are also likely to have developed a variety of new skills. For example:

  • If you’ve taken time out to care for others you will have honed your communication, time-management and organisation skills. And nothing improves negotiation ability more than getting to a compromise with a teenager! 
  • If you’ve done skilled voluntary work you will have developed both teamwork and leadership skills – managing volunteers is much harder than paid staff.
  • If you were travelling or studying, this can signal an openness to experiences and a motivation to learn and develop. 
  • If your break was because of a personal trauma or health issue, you will have developed resilience and fortitude.

When writing your return-to-work CV and cover letter and preparing for interviews consider everything you’ve done during your break. Make sure the skills and experience you’ve acquired come across – they are an important part of who you are now. 

Switch your focus. Rather than seeing your career break as a negative to employers, focus on how it differentiates you and makes you a better employee,  gaining maturity, perspective and many new skills. You will be an asset to your next employer because of, not in spite of, your career break.

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