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How to Return to Work After a Career Break

How to Return to Work After a Career Break
There could be many reasons to take a break from your career; parental leave, looking after relatives, or even pursuing a hobby, but returning to work can incredibly difficult. This was a lesson I learned myself when I returned from parental leave last year.

Throughout my career, I’ve spoken with people from all walks of life who have successfully returned to work and used their insight to expand on my own experience. If you’re in a similar position and looking to come back to your career, here are my five top tips to help you through your transition.

Attitude is Everything

The first (and most important) step in your journey is your career re-entry strategy. Everyone’s priorities change overtime so, while its helpful to reflect on what was important to you before you left the workforce, it’s more valuable to consider what’s important to you now. If you don’t, you risk securing a role that won’t meet your needs. With that in mind, define your key criteria.

Getting back into work can seem like a mammoth task. However, it’s likely that your decision to leave work in the first place was a much bigger step so don’t underestimate yourself. Be confident but realistic in your expectations.

Research Your Market

Once you know what you want, you need to revaluate where you stand. Technology within the Accounting and Finance sectors is rapidly changing so even a short break could leave you feeling like your knowledge and skills are outdated but there are practical steps you can take to overcome this. Taking short Xero or Excel courses can help you stay ahead of the latest tools and developments in your field and give you confidence in your ability. If you’re a member of a professional association like CAANZ, continuing your professional development can be a valuable investment. These training courses and study groups can also be a great chance to network with other likeminded professionals who could be in similar situations to you.

Don’t Plan for Today, Plan for Tomorrow

If you’ve taken a long career break or your priorities have changed, you might need to take a small step back before you can take a step forward. This is where your market research will help you. If there are plenty of opportunities and a shortage of candidates in the area you want to return to, you may not need to compromise on your expectations at all. However, if you’re looking for a role that is in shorter supply, it’s possible that you might not be able to return to the market at the same level you left, which means you may need to be flexible.

If you’re looking for flexible hours to suit your personal circumstances, then you should consider that flexibility can come with a price. To expand your available opportunities, you may even consider a lower-level role and a pay cut to help you move forward with your career plan.

Use Your Networks

Your network is a fantastic source of information and can often point you in the direction of great career opportunities. Your previous managers and colleagues will often have their ear close to the ground, and that’s why it’s important to maintain your professional contacts even whilst taking a career break. A few ways to do that is through attending the occasional social event or by keeping in touch over LinkedIn. At the same time, your manager knows you very well and could provide you with helpful advice on how to improve and break back into the industry. Staying in touch with previous managers also enables you to ensure you have strong references available when you start looking for a new job again.

If you have a good deal of time on your hands during your job search, it’s a great idea to get involved with industry events and any meetups that will help expand your network. Attending events like industry conferences can add credibility to your personal brand and help connect you with more people across your industry. This in turn could result in more job opportunities through word-of-mouth.

Approach Your Job Search with Finesse

Don’t rush your job search or apply for everything that you come across. Doing so could risk you appearing desperate or not that interested in a certain role. Instead, you should avoid using a stock CV and tailor it to the job description whilst checking that your cover letter won’t let you down. Some employers may have concerns over gaps in your CV, but a well-written cover letter can help you to explain breaks in your employment without going into too much detail. Another idea is to ask for LinkedIn Recommendations from previous employers so you can ease any concerns someone reviewing your CV might have. When you get to an interview, if the interviewer raises any red flags over your career break, be sure to address them by focusing on what you can do and what you offer, whilst highlighting any transferable skills you’ve gained during this time.


Returning to the workforce might not be a straightforward transition for you, so the key is to shift your mentality and be open to the opportunities that present themselves. When I was coming back from parental leave last year, I was able to work from home for five to ten hours per week before returning to the office. It was different to my fulltime role but that chance was great for both OCG and for me because I could keep my head in the game, and it helped me ease back into my career when the time was right. So, be open with your situation and embrace what feels right for you and your career. For some more advice, check out my colleague, Suji Boomgaard’s blog on life as a working mother, or don’t hesitate to get in touch. Good luck!
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