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Ask James Caan – Issue 120

Written by Kimberley Startup | November 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

James Caan Online RecruitmentDear member,

Finding a job is always a challenge, but finding one after a long career break can prove even harder.

There are so many things that you need to consider, including your skills and interviewing techniques that the prospect of returning to work can be a little overwhelming.

Take this example from Susan. Prior to her 5-year career break caring for her children, Susan worked as a Training Consultant. Now looking to return to work, she is struggling to know where to start.

She writes:

‘I need help making the transition back into employment, where do I start and how do I market myself?’

Susan, getting back to work after a significant career break can be daunting. Many people who find themselves in this position, often don’t know where to begin and are faced with barriers that other job seekers don’t typically come across.

Whilst it’s commendable that someone would give up their career to care for their children, today’s employer want candidates that are relevant and up-to-date. As such, a red flag is immediately created when there is any gap in your CV.

But it’s important to remember, everyone has something to offer, and it’s your job to identify your unique selling point and demonstrate this to employers.

Consider the type of career you’re interested in pursuing. You’re experience as a training consultant can be suited to a variety of paths, such as lecturing and learning & development. Or perhaps you want a complete career change?

Once you understand the path you want to follow, it will be a lot easier to prepare for the job hunt.

When you’ve been out of work for a period of time, it’s worth re-visiting your CV. I would advise you write a skills-based CV where the focus is on your talents and how you’ve applied them, rather than a chronological CV which will emphasise your career break.

The key to making sure you’re recognised as the best fit is matching your skills with the ones requested in the job description. But these skills don’t have to have been developed in a professional environment.

Communication, time management, negotiation and organisational skills are all vital attributes in the workplace. You will have had no better time to practice these than when you were bringing up your children.

Demonstrate how your experiences have helped you grow. Figure out how your skills can help the company you want to work and turn your experience into something that’s relevant for your industry.

Make sure you do your research into whichever industry you’re hoping to return to work in. Find out up-to-date information about what is going on, how well the industry doing, will there be any major changes coming soon?

Perhaps you’ve stayed in ‘practice’ by reading articles or taking a few classes? Consider ways you can demonstrate how you’ve kept engaged and knowledgeable about your chosen career.

I recommend briefly explaining your break in employment in your cover letter, but don’t go into too much detail. You could also ask for letters of recommendation from past employers so that you can submit them with your resume. This will go a long way in easing any concerns that the person reviewing your CV may have.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of websites dedicated to helping mums return to work after a career break. Working Mums (available at is a good place to start. You could also talk with friends and former colleagues – this will only help make the transition back to work easier.

At the end of the day, many people take career breaks for a number of reasons, but be persistent, confident and sell yourself. The process might take a little more effort and time than it normally requires, but an employer will see your potential and take you on board.


James Caan

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