Reframing your Career Break: Unearthing Value and Articulating Transferable Skills

Taking a career break, whether by choice or circumstance, often carries a complex mix of emotions and implications for professionals. While the reasons vary, including caring commitments, health reasons, relocation, redundancy and professional development to name but a few – returning to the workforce can feel daunting. However, what if we viewed a career break not as a gap in a CV but as a rich period of growth and learning? This post aims to help you reframe your career break by identifying its inherent value and learnings, and articulating your transferable skills in a way that resonates with potential employers.

Identifying the Value and Learnings

1. Personal Development: A career break often leads to significant personal development, including improved resilience, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. Reflect on how you’ve grown personally during this period and consider how these traits are valuable in a professional setting.

2. New Perspectives: Stepping away from the workforce can provide new insights into what you value in a career, your preferred work culture, and the type of work-life balance you seek. Your experiences on a career break may also help you to bring a different way of thinking and problem solving, which is hugely valued by teams.

3. Skills Acquisition: During a break, many individuals acquire new skills. Whether through exploring a hobby, formal education, volunteering or other employment, these experiences contribute to what you can offer a new employer.

Articulating Transferable Skills 

1. Communication: If your break involved coordinating activities for family, volunteer projects or other employment, you likely honed your communication skills. Employers value clear, concise communication, so this is a key skill to highlight.

2. Project Management: Organising any event such as leading a community project or planning a relocation can enhance your project management skills. Highlight how these experiences have taught you to manage time, resources, and expectations effectively.

3. Problem-solving: Life outside the traditional workforce is full of unexpected challenges requiring creative solutions. Reflect on moments when you had to think on your feet or navigate complex situations, demonstrating your problem-solving abilities.

4. Adaptability: Successfully managing a career break requires adaptability—a skill highly prized in today’s fast-paced work environment. Consider how adapting to new circumstances or learning new technologies during your break has prepared you for the dynamic nature of the workplace.

Making It Relevant to Your Role 

1. Tailor your CV: When preparing for your return, tailor your CV to the specific role. Mirror the language used in the job ad to describe your skills and experiences, making it easier for hiring managers to see the relevance.

2. List your transferable skills: Under your professional profile, list your key skills including your transferable skills developed during your career break as relevant to the role you’re going for now.

3. Confidence in your Career Break at Interview: When you land that interview, discuss your career break with confidence! Clearly articulate how your unique experiences have equipped you with a diverse skill set and a fresh perspective.

By reframing your career break as an opportunity for growth and learning and articulating your transferable skills effectively, you can make a compelling case for why you are not just a suitable candidate, but a valuable asset to any team.

 

Managing Return to Work Fears

Contemplating returning to work after a career break can feel scary and sometimes overwhelming. We’d like to reassure you that these feelings are very normal as you negotiate the ups and downs of returning to work. However, there are strategies that you can use to overcome them. These can be very empowering and help give you the boost you need to keep moving forward.

Common fears

These are some of the typical worries we hear:

  • ‘I’ve lost all my skills and knowledge after such a long time out’
  • ‘I’ll never get back to speed when everything’s moved on so much’
  • ‘No-one will employ me with such a large gap on my CV’
  • ‘My family won’t cope without me’

Fears such as these can be so powerful that they stop you in your tracks before you even get going.

Managing your Fears

The first step is to recognise that this is your Negativity Bias playing loud and clear! Our brains have evolved to keep us safe. In evolutionary times, understanding all the potential risks of a situation kept us out of danger’s way and alive. Nowadays, our minds have not evolved as much as our environment. So when we’re stepping outside of our comfort zone – such as looking to return to work after a career break – our minds fire up with everything that might go wrong. Your mind wants to keep you safe, but it can just keep you stuck!

Alongside negativity bias is its firm friend and accomplice: your Inner Critic! You’ll recognise your inner critic – it’s the unhelpful soundtrack that plays in your head. It might tell you ‘You’re too old to go back to work’, or ‘You’re being selfish for wanting to leave your family to work. We all have this unhelpful voice – recognising that this is what’s at play here, can help you to gain some distance and objectivity.

When your negativity bias rears its head, first acknowledge these are thoughts not proven reality. Then aim to balance the negativity, seeking counter evidence to reality-test your thoughts:

  • If your inner critic is suggesting you’re not capable, list out your strengths, together with the achievements and experiences that demonstrate what you have done in the past and can do again.
  • If your thoughts are focused on what could go wrong, consider all the things that could go right. We call this ‘positive what-iffing!’. So instead of ‘what if I don’t remember anything?’, reframe it to ‘what if my knowledge comes back quickly once I’m back in role, plus I also have a whole host of transferable skills I can bring to it from my career break?’ It opens your mind to the positive possibilities and helps you to get excited about your return.

Now find your ‘inner mentor’. This is your more compassionate voice, the one that would reassure a friend when they’re doubting themselves. In essence, give yourself a pep talk! Tell yourself, ‘you can do this’, ‘you’ve got years’ worth of experience both pre-break and from your break and they’re lucky to have you!’. Aim to mentally turn down the volume on your inner critic and raise the dial on the volume of your inner mentor!

As you navigate the ups and downs of returning to work, remember that fears and doubts are very normal. They indicate that you are challenging yourself to grow and push out of your comfort zone.

 

Returning to work at different ages

Returning to work can be a daunting process after a career break. You may be questioning ‘who am I’ professionally after several years out, and this may feel even more profound when returning to work after a very lengthy break.

Different life factors at play can also bring additional challenges – how does returning to work differ in your 30s, 40s and 50s – and what can you do practically to help yourself?

Your 30s

Careers often accelerate during your 30s, and it can feel hard to return when you’ve stepped out of your career while your peers have continued to progress. You may feel frustrated and that you have to play catch up with others in your age group to get your career back on track. Remember, as working lives grow longer with many of us working into our 60s and beyond, this is just a small pause in your career, and you will be back up to speed and smashing it before long!

The first step is to avoid the trap of comparison and focus instead on the value you bring. Reconnect with your professional brand – what you have to offer in terms of your strengths, skills and experience, and what you stand for – your values and your purpose. Read our blog here on personal brand and focus on raising your visibility in line with this.

This is a prime time to grow in your career and it can be really valuable to seek a mentor to help you think about your career progression, and spot opportunities for development as your resume your career. Explore organisations’ mentoring programmes, or be brave and approach people you think could be a great mentor to set up an informal mentoring relationship.

If you have young children to care for, this can be challenging both practically and emotionally.  Explore child care options early so that you’re well prepared on this front. The good news is that post pandemic, flexible working is here to stay and in many cases has made it easier for professionals to return to work. In addition new laws that come into effect in 2024 also mean that you will soon have the right to request flexibility from day one. Read our flexible working blog post for further tips and advice.

Your 40s

“The advantage to being older is that you know who you are and what you want” a returner in her 40s told us recently. Your 40s is a good time to review what you want from the next 20-30 years of your career. Reflect on your strengths, values and interests and whether these have changed since you last made career decisions. If you have children they may well be at school now, freeing up some time and space for you again and it’s a great time to reignite your career fire!

At this life stage, ageing parents may also start to pose new responsibilities and challenges.  Consider who else can help out to support loved ones when you’re back at work – other family members, friendly neighbours, community support? Explore these now whilst you have the time to set up and trial new arrangements.

Perimenopause can also bring its own challenges in your mid to late 40s. See our blog here on asking for the (peri)menopause support you need as you return to work.

Balancing all of these elements can be stressful so it’s important to practice the basics of looking after yourself well and reaching out for help. Join supportive groups for tips and advice, build your network and challenge yourself to be more visible. Listen to Tamara’s inspiring story on our Career Returners podcast about the value of networks and creating opportunities to reconnect.

Your 50s

At this age you will have achieved many brilliant things throughout your career and life. You will have years of valuable work experience, you may have lived or worked in different countries, developed your own business, volunteered your time, maybe created or designed something. You may have raised your children, cared for your parents, supported a partner, and witnessed life changing events. Value what you have to offer an employer.

Workplace ageism can be a challenge returning to work in your 50s and while it might be true that some organisations fail to recognise the great value and benefit of hiring older workers, the landscape is changing as more and more organisations embrace returner programmes and the government commits to new initiatives to help over 50s back to work.

Returners too often create self-imposed barriers that need not exist. There are lots of free online upskilling courses to help you get up to speed with new technologies, to pivot your career or to retrain into a new area. Explore our resource signposts here to get upskilled and grow your confidence.

Reframing and developing the right mindset where your age is an advantage is essential. There are lots of resources out there to help you realise your potential – check out Restless, a fast growing digital community for the over 50s and 55 Redefined, ‘champions of the over 50s’ with an over 50s jobs board and membership platform.

Whatever age and stage you’re at, remember that you bring many years of skills, experience and wisdom that employers hugely value.  For inspiration, delve into our Library of Success Stories to help you get started on this next career chapter.

Advice from Employers for Returner Candidates

At our annual ‘Back to your Future’ conference in May 2023, Upasna Bhadhal facilitated an insightful Employer Panel on ‘The Value Returners Bring and Top Tips for Success’, chatting to Esme Heaps from Workday, Claire Hodson from J.P. Morgan, Muniba Khan from Edinburgh Napier University and Alexander Trusty from Moody’s Corporation. We’ve selected below some of their comments on why they are targeting returner candidates and how attitudes have evolved towards candidates with career breaks, together with their top tips for returners.

What value do returners bring to your organisation?

  • “We value our programmes because we have seen the positive impact on our organisation … returners have such great skills and experience”
  • “Returners bring fresh ideas and perspective and a rich source of talent. They demonstrate their value through their contribution and now in turn as alumni are recruiting their own returners”
  • “Returners bring cognitive diversity and more value than they realise – the career gap is a CV gift!”
  • “We value diversity of thought and opinion. When businesses bring in experienced returners and get it right it’s a ‘magic combination’. Returners bring huge value and experience – they just need support to brush up their skills.”
  • “Returners enables us to diversity our workforce and enables those with huge talent to get back into the game”

Employer Tips for Success

  • “Own your career gap”. Don’t try and hide it.
  • “Don’t shy away from your career break, celebrate it!” Have a top summary paragraph on your CV with an overview, show what you’ve gained – tell your story!
  • “Do your research”. Look at the job advert to see what skills are required for a role. Then draw on your own experiences and make sure your relevant skills stand out in your application. Be specific about what you bring to the table.
  • “The returners who are curious are the most successful as it takes them further, they learn more and expand their networks.”
  • “Reach out and connect”. Shout loud and proud about your achievements.
  • “Use your support network, ask questions”. Once in the role, don’t get overwhelmed, reach out and seek support, and your skills and confidence will grow.

Advice from Other Returners on How to Successfully Return to Work

At our 2023 Women Returners Conference, we heard from a panel of inspirational returners who shared successful stories of relaunching their careers, after breaks of 4 to 17 years, within the fields of Law, IT, Strategy, Project Management and Professional Services.   

There were so many inspiring stories from our panellists: 

  • Rabiya, a qualified and experienced tech professional, applied unsuccessfully for more than 100 jobs after a 4-year career break due to relocation and ill health. She finally secured a role as a QA Engineer at The Very Group via their first returner programme.   
  • Antona, an experienced Risk Manager who had worked in Professional Services for 16 years, found it impossible to find a job in her old field after a 6-year career break to raise her 2 children. She worked for 2 years in her local petrol station, before getting her career back on track with the Deloitte Ireland Return to Work Programme. 
  • Sal took a 17-year break from her professional career to help run the family chain of Post Offices. With the support of Women Returners’ Career Boost Scotland Programme, she returned to her professional career as a Project Co-ordinator with the Scottish Government in 2023.   
  • Michele, a sales and marketing professional and entrepreneur, took a 5-year career break to raise her young family. She returned to her career via a Home Office Returner Programme in 2017 and is now Deputy Director HR at the Ministry of Defence. 
  • Tamsin, a qualified lawyer, took a 13-year career break from law to raise her two sons.  During her career break, she followed her passion for social justice and worked in the charity sector in a women’s prison and as an advocate for high-risk domestic violence victims.  She also took a sabbatical to travel the world. Once her children were older, Tamsin returned to law with Mills & Reeve.  

 Here’s a summary of some of their top tips for other women professionals wanting to successfully navigate a return to work together with some advice from our coaching team: 

 “Believe in yourself. Keep saying I can do it! You have so many skills
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 of value to an employer – “I’ve just looked after two 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. 

 “For every one thing you might be slower at there are 3 to 4 skills you are better at”
Remind yourself of the skills you have acquired BECAUSE of your career break – networking, multitasking, communicating, and interacting with different types of people.  All of these are transferable skills which you are bringing back into the workplace. 

 “Equip yourself with knowledge and transferable skills
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, for example Rabiya enrolled in an AWS cloud software course which had just a nominal fee. 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. 

 Don’t hide your Career Gap
Be open and transparent both about your career break and any caring responsibilities you have.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised about how the corporate environment is less rigid now and different ways of working are more acceptable. Be honest in your interview; organisations are there to support you. 

 “Surround yourself with as much positivity as possible
Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and cheer you on. Reach out to others 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 tailored message to reach out.  Ask questions, there are so many people willing to help. 

 “It is possible!” 
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. 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.  

Read the Success Stories on the Women Returners website as a great source of inspiration on days where you feel low. 

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

Building your personal brand

Being clear about your personal brand is so important as you return to work. But what exactly is ‘personal brand’, and how can you build it? Karen, Women Returners Head of Coaching, talked to Steph, Senior Coach at Women Returners, about how to build an authentic personal brand in a recent webinar for our professional network. Karen summarises Steph’s key points below.

Personal brand is your reputation. It includes what you have to offer – your strengths, skills, experiences – and what you stand for – your values and your purpose. It’s the experience that people have when they’re with you. So ask yourself the all-important question: is how you’re perceived consistent with what you want your personal brand to be? 

Having a clear and authentic personal brand is so valuable when you return to work. Being able to articulate your strengths, values, motivations and purpose can make you feel more confident, enable successful career conversations and drive decision making. 

Building your Personal Brand Pyramid 

Steph introduced the idea of a Personal Brand Pyramid. At the foundation lies your values. Your  purpose comes above that, then your skills strengths and experience, your behaviours and image, and finally at the top your reputation which is built upon all the layers beneath it. Each layer is important and feeds into the overall experience that others have of you.  

Your Values and Purpose  

Knowing your own values helps you to make decisions and can become the guiding compass for your life. Sometimes, it’s hard to capture what our values are. One simple method is to reflect back on the ‘golden moments’ of your career – activities you most loved doing – and consider what made them so special.  

For me, working on our podcast ‘Career Returners’ has been a real golden career moment. It has stretched me, allowed me to be creative, and enabled me to connect deeply with a number of fabulous returners!  From this, it’s clear to me that growth, creativity and connection are key values to me, so I look for opportunities that enable me to live those values. If you can choose work by your values, that will lead to more contentment and achievement. 

Many people struggle to identify their specific purpose. To help you uncover yours, think about the difference you want to make in the world: what is your ‘why’?  

When you’re thinking about whether a role is the right one for you, coming back to your purpose and values can really help.  

Your Strengths 

One element of personal brand is the strengths you can offer, so being able to articulate them in an evidence based way will be key. If you’re not clear on your strengths, you could: 

  • Look up past work reviews 
  • Speak to friends and family about what they think your strengths are 
  • Consider what comes naturally to you 
  • Reflect on your proudest achievements, both before and during your career break, jotting down what strengths were in play during those times 
  • Use a strengths assessment tool to help you, eg Insights discovery, spotlight, Strengthsfinder, jobmi.com, or principlesyou.com 

Your Behaviours and Image 

To live your personal brand from the inside out, your behaviours must match who and what you say you are.  One way to demonstrate this at interview is to think about the stories you can tell. These stories can make you memorable, while illustrating your strengths, where your values come from and why they’re important to you. 

Body language is important too. Smiling helps build rapport and trust, particularly in online interviews where tone and speech are often ‘flattened’ on a 2D screen. You may also want to use more hand movements to illustrate what you’re saying and become a little more ‘3D’! Do also think about your online background, ensuring the image you portray reflects the type of role you’re going for.  

Other ways to express your Personal Brand 

In addition to how you physically show up, your online presence can also reflect your personal brand. Your LinkedIn profile is an opportunity to showcase your strengths and experience in your chosen style, while your posts can reflect your interests, values and thought leadership. The activities you choose to engage in and talk about, from hobbies to volunteering, also speak volumes about your motivators and values.  

So, as you return to work, remember to be clear about your personal brand. Live your values and play to your strengths in what you do and in your interactions with others. It will help build your inner confidence, consistency and trust with others. 

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

Employers’ Rationale for Hiring Returners

On the first Employer Panel at our Women Returners ‘Back to Your Future’  Virtual Conference last month, Isabel Berwick, Work & Careers Editor of the Financial Times, talked to 6 of our employer partners about their Rationale for Hiring Returners. Amazon Web Services (AWS), the Bank of England, Bloomberg, Civil Service HR, Facebook, and Moody’s, in an uplifting conversation, discussed the key role returners play in their organisations’ talent strategy. If you’re doubting the value that you can bring to an employer, get confidence from their comments on why employers see returners as a strong talent pool:

Why organisations hire returners

“As an organisation we’re really committed to increasing the diversity of our representation. We want our teams to represent the broader range of experiences, backgrounds, identities, abilities. Finding diverse talent can be challenging – returners offer a new pipeline of talent.”

“If you want a truly inclusive strategy and value people from all backgrounds and experiences, returners will offer a unique set of experiences and skills.”

“Returners are a key part of our overall talent strategy. We want employees from all backgrounds with diverse perspectives that can connect to and support our customers.”

“Returners are an important aspect of improving gender diversity and helping us to reduce our gender pay gap.”

Why organisations run returner programmes

“We want to represent the diversity of the community in which we operate. Returner programmes represent a dedicated alternative channel to ensure we’re accessing the full breadth of diverse talent available.”

“The structure of a returner programme is really valuable – joining as a cohort, the inbuilt network, the coaching. It’s an opportunity for returners to try out returning to work.”

“It’s important to have a returner programme so that mechanisms are in place to ensure we’re hiring returners into the business, and that the environment they come into is supportive and inclusive, so that they can thrive in their careers and have access to a support network.”

“The returner programme enables us to ensure returners are provided with the right opportunities in role, and access to networks and training, to help them to bring the skills and experience they have to bear and to be successful.”

“A returner programme offers peer support and structured management support – an induction, line manager support, mentoring, external coaching (from Women Returners) to help returners’ confidence grow in role. All are particularly helpful after a long career break.”

“The returner programme is part of our overall strategy to bring more diversity into our organisation. A programme ensures we’re being deliberate about it and are setting returners up for success.”

The skills returners bring to the workplace

“Returners have broad experience and technical ability and qualifications, plus the talents which have increased with their break. They learn other skills – perseverance, communication, flexibility – during their break. Change is constant, and we need people who can adapt. Technical skills and life skills are key.”

“Every time I came back from maternity leave, I came back stronger, more resilient, more confident. As people come back from career breaks, I see they bring greater skills and perspectives because of their break than before. As corporations, we mustn’t miss out on all the skills and experience that resides within this talent pool”

“We’re interested in the other diverse skills that returners gained on their career break, and how they can bring these into the workplace. It’s a win-win.”

“We look at the totality of a returner’s experience and what you bring, and how it’s a good fit for the roles available.”

Final thoughts

“Diversity & Inclusion is more and more becoming a lens through which we view what we do and the choices we make. An inclusive culture that allows people to perform at their best isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s good for business!”

“Returners are very highly valued for the experience they have”

“It’s really hard to hire good talent – we need you!”

 

In our next blog post, we explore more highlights from our Conference Employer Panels: what employers are looking for in returner applications and the key skills and strengths that will help you succeed on your return to work journey.  For more advice, support and news of job opportunities, sign up to our free Women Returners Professional Network, and check out our wide range of articles on our Advice Hub.

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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