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!