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How to plan for a comeback after a career gap

by Liz Marchant

There are lots of reasons that people have a career gap. Sometimes it’s because of illness, being made redundant, being a carer of a partner or elderly family members or children, or sometimes for an extended period of travel.

Regardless of if your career break was planned or unplanned, returning to the workforce after an extended period away can be challenging.

Career gaps are not uncommon, the Australian HR Institute found that 69 per cent of women and 29 per cent of men in Australia and New Zealand have taken an extended break.

If you are planning to take a career break, or planning to come back from one, here are some things to think about as part of your preparation.

Revitalise your resume

Think about how you position your career gap on your resume. If done carefully it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Think about the skills you have developed during that time, the experiences you have had and how you can use it to help you stand out.

Accentuate the strengths you offer as a potential employee including accomplishments during your career gap. Did you study? Volunteer? Earn a certificate? Work as a freelancer? Make those activities part of your story.

Be careful not to try to hide your career gap.

Take the time to make sure you are using current industry terms and emphasise any skills you have that are in demand.

Refresh or reinvent

Where possible take some short courses, attend industry events or read about your industry so you know you are up to date with what is happening, any changes and developments. This will help you feel more prepared and be ready to answer interview questions confidently. Where possible, look for career returners programs, these can be great opportunities to update your skills and have assistance in readjusting to the workforce.

Be prepared to keep or reestablish your network

It is estimated that 85 per cent of jobs are landed through networking. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and that you have connected with former colleagues, clients or employers. Arrange some coffee dates and let your network know you are available and what you are looking for. Not only will you potentially get some job leads, but these contacts can give you advice on re-entering the workforce.

Victoria Butt from Parity Consulting reminds us that the personal touch makes all the difference and advises that, “It’s incredibly important not to just send your CV where possible to recruiters if you have an extended career gap. Calling and connecting with the recruiter or network to share strengths and skills would be far more successful than blasting off heaps of applications. Even if the applications have a cover letter, most internal or external recruiters will not read them. Less is more.”

Update your look

Something as simple as a new outfit can be a real confidence boost when attending an event or an interview. You don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe, some simple pieces that fit well and shows that you are up to date and have put thought into your appearance.

Think about how you present your story

If you have taken extensive career break, mention it in your cover letter, as well as during interview. Not just an explanation, but also some value adds around what the time has meant to you and your eagerness to return to your career. Focus more on what you learnt or how you refreshed your focus during your time away, as this will help to show the employer that you are confident in your knowledge and capabilities.