Returning to work with confidence after a career break

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By Karen Samuel

So, you’ve decided to return to work in 2021 but there’s just one problem – you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, either on a career break or raising children.

Many interviewers have stated that confidence sets candidates apart. In many cases, people returning to work after a career break struggle with this.

Below is a summary of the steps you can take to gain back your confidence, master the application process and put your best foot forward when applying for jobs this year.

1. Update your resume

Think of your resume as a marketing document, that sells you to a potential employer. Your resume is the document which will help you secure an interview, so make sure it is updated into a format that suits what you are trying to achieve, and every word is used wisely.

Many mums that I work with also feel unsure about what to include when it comes to their career break. It is important to address any time off longer than six months on your resume so that your resume makes sense to potential employers who are reading it. Take some time to think broadly about how you have been spending your time during your career break. As well as raising a family and managing a household, have you also been managing an investment property, or doing voluntary work in the community? Create a headline to use in place of
a job title and summarise your experience during that time into a few key bullet points.

2. Reframe your mindset

My advice to mums is to change their mindset concerning their career break and begin to see it as something that increases their value in the workplace, because it does. Becoming a parent doesn’t take away your education or your work experience; rather, it adds perspective, transferrable experience and empathy. Good employers know this, and recognise that flexibility is important in the workplace, and beneficial to both the employer and the employee.

3. Write a targeting cover letter for each application

In today’s competitive market, it is important to write a targeted cover letter for any jobs that you are interested in. Aim for three short paragraphs, which provide extra context around your experience and how it makes you a great fit for this job, as well as telling the employer why you want to work for them.

4. Update your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn is an essential tool for job seekers in 2021. The job board features some unique opportunities that won’t be advertised elsewhere, and the platform also allows you to connect to a diverse range of employers across a number of companies and industries. Investing some time into updating your LinkedIn profile, will help you put your best foot forward on this platform.

5. Start networking

If you’re struggling to get your foot in the door, reaching out to networks can begin to open some doors. Try reaching out to your old contacts or workmates to let them know you are looking for work. Networking in this way can open up what is called the “hidden job market”. This is essentially a pool of jobs that are filled before they are advertised to the general public. Being in contact with someone who works for the recruiting company, will help you find out about those opportunities first, and you are more likely to find yourself being invited for interview.

6. Find the right employer

If you are seeking a family-friendly employer, its critical to do your research and choose wisely. Many organisations support flexible working, including remote and part time work, and policies are often discoverable online on a company’s website. There are also job boards that are solely dedicated to flexible jobs and employers.

7. If you want extra assistance or are feeling unconfident, consult a coach

Those who consult a coach will have an expert on their side every step of the way, to empower them during the job seeking process. If you feel you need some extra assistance to achieve the best possible outcome, a coach can help you secure a better opportunity, and faster, meaning you have less time out of work and more time earning money and gaining that job security.

A positive frame of mind definitely yields positive results. However, don’t be discouraged if results are not instant, it can be a long process to find the right fit and the job market is experiencing longer times to hire.

If you would like personal advice on your situation and job seeking journey, you can reach out to us for further advice.


Karen Samuel is a working mum and founder of Flexible Work Expert which provides programs and resources to help women succeed in their career, either before or after starting a family.

You can find more information at www.flexibleworkexpert.com.au.

Karen had an extensive corporate career in Human Resources and Recruitment before qualifying as a lawyer while pregnant with her first child. After experiencing first-hand the challenges which mums are faced with in the workplace, she was inspired to use her skills to help other women like her to find success, happiness and balance in the workplace.

Peninsula Kids – Autumn 2021

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