Heading back to work after time out to raise children can be daunting. Many women fear their skills have deserted them. They haven’t – you just need to re-connect with the professional ‘you’ and remember all the value you can add in the workplace. CV Queen Victoria McClean talks to us about how to boost your confidence after a career break…
Over the last decade, I have supported hundreds of individuals return to work post career break. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of my role as it has such a life-changing impact. Many of the career returners I work with, struggle with confidence and identifying their past achievements.
As CV writers and career / interview coaches, we frame the benefits they will bring to a new employer in a relevant and positive light. If you’re keen to get back to business, here are five confidence builders to get you going.
Take time to reflect
Go back over your career history. Dig out your old job descriptions and flip those bland bullet points into powerful achievements. What benefits did you bring to the business, your clients or team?
Brainstorm your skills, knowledge and motivations. Think about what you’re good at, what you loved (and what annoyed or frustrated you) about your previous career – and what brings you joy now. Then consider the type of environment and people you like being around.
Your motivations might have changed since having children. And, that’s okay. Reviewing and clarifying your career goals and work/life balance issues is a valuable process in itself.
Get in the right frame of mind
If it feels like a lifetime since you wore suits, went to meetings and oozed confidence and competence, then start by re-connecting with your old life in a relaxed way. Meet former co-workers for coffee or go along to professional networking events. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it all comes flooding back to you.
Build a personal brand you feel comfortable with
You’ll need a first-rate CV and LinkedIn profile to re-launch your career. A modern CV is much more than a job history. It’s a marketing document that outlines your USP and makes a compelling business case.
Think about how you’re going to position your career break on your CV. One simple – but effective – tip is to keep it short. Don’t focus on it. It only needs to be a line or two, ‘sandwiched’ between achievements that emphasise your professional work.
Focus on your target role, relevant experience and transferable skills. I always advise tweaking your CV for each job application. This gives you a real competitive edge and dramatically improves your chances of getting the new career you deserve.
Crafting an engaging, key-word rich LinkedIn profile will also help you get back in touch with former colleagues and start networking with new contacts. Once you’ve updated and optimised your profile, you can make connections and follow companies or specific individuals. You can also join interest groups, take part in discussions and post your own updates to build your brand.
Practise confident interviewing
Research the company and the role, then think about the questions they’re likely to ask. Try to see every question as an opportunity for you to shine. Interview nerves are only natural, especially after a career break, but research shows that career returners bounce back super-fast.
How you answer questions, what you wear and your tone of voice all need to show the interviewer just what a conﬁdent, capable person you are. If you’re really nervous, professional coaching can help overcome all kinds of interview anxiety.
Be prepared to negotiate on flexibility
If ﬂexible working is important to you, know how to handle the negotiations like a pro. Research what sort of ﬂexible working could suit you and the employer. Part-time isn’t the only option. Think about home working, term-time only, staggered, compressed or annualised hours.
Try not to raise this issue at the first interview. Convince them you are their ideal candidate and then go in with a compelling business case. And, don’t be put off applying for a role just because it isn’t advertised as ﬂexible. Just go for it. You can negotiate once you’ve landed the job.
A career break is a time when many of us re-evaluate our life goals. I left my investment banking career to set up City CV when my first child was born. Whether you’re setting up a new business, going freelance or heading back to corporate life, take time to be clear about your transferable skills and the value you offer.