How to get back into work after a career break

Whatever the reason you’ve left work, it can be hard to stand out in a competitive jobs market

Don’t be afraid to ask former colleagues for advice on what to do.

The spotlight on the unemployed is often focused on school leavers and graduates. Among those looking to get back onto the career ladder, however, are many returners, struggling to stand out from the crowd in an increasingly competitive environment, despite their vast experience and knowledge.
Returning to work after a career break is understandably daunting, and it can be difficult to know where to start. But there are a number of steps that returners can take to help bridge the gap between leaving the workplace and re-joining it a few years later.


In an increasingly digital world, it’s essential to demonstrate that you’ve kept up with technology and market trends. LinkedIn, for example, is a great networking tool that quickly tells prospective employers and recruiters all they need to know about your career history and experience at the click of a button. Making the most of your connections is also essential, and LinkedIn lends itself to this well. It easily enables users to identify and link up with those with whom they have had previous professional relationships, and helps to reignite old networks.
Beyond this, returners should never be afraid to pick up the phone and speak to former colleagues and managers. This group will be able to offer valuable advice and point you in the direction of opportunities you might otherwise be unaware of. Word of mouth referral is still one of the most powerful recruitment tools, and those who have worked together in the past will be well-placed to lend an ear, offer advice, and put in a good word.


It’s also key that returners recognise and reconnect with the skills that they developed prior to taking time off. More often than not, this is simply a case of brushing up on what is already known but which may not have been applied for a while. Initiatives such as our Returning Talent programme encompass workshops and conferences offering practical advice to those looking to return to work. This can be anything from tips on how to sharpen CVs to ways to deliver an elevator pitch. Those on the programme also have the opportunity to speak first-hand with people who have made a successful return to work to hear about their experiences. Every story is different, even if the common goal is the same.
Above all, key to a successful transition back to work is confidence. A career break doesn’t automatically make applicants unattractive to employers – many of whom increasingly have mechanisms in place to support those looking to return to the workplace. We have found that returners often come with a fresh outlook and a different perspective, and this is hugely valuable to our teams. Any reputable organisation should recognise the value of investing in not only retaining, but attracting and re-training the very best of work-ready talent.
Neeha Khurana is head of learning, leadership development, and diversity and inclusion at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

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