Rejoining the Workforce: Tips for a Smooth Transition After a Career Break


Rejoining the Workforce: Tips for a Smooth Transition After a Career Break

by Will Campbell

  • Career
  • · July 10 2024
  • · 7 min read
back to work after a career break

Table of contents

Feeling apprehensive about rejoining the workforce after a career break? You're not alone. Many professionals worry about how their time away might be perceived and how to reintegrate into the job market effectively.

Career breaks both short and long are now part of the modern career. Far from being a setback, these experiences can enhance your skill set and offer unique perspectives that enrich your professional profile.

In this article, we cover the following:

  • Provide practical tips to successfully navigate your return to work.

  • Highlight the strengths gained during your break.

  • How to position yourself as a competitive candidate.

  • Tips for writing a good CV for your job application.

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What is a career break?

Life doesn't always follow a linear path, and career breaks happen for many valid reasons. Each comes with its own challenges and opportunities. Here’s how the most common career breaks can work in your favour:

  • Parental leave: Develops multitasking, patience and negotiation skills.

  • Burnout recovery: Encourages better stress management and work-life balance.

  • Continuing education: Adds new qualifications and updates existing knowledge.

  • Running a business: Enhances leadership, financial management and strategic planning skills plus shows accountability and self-management.

  • Redundancy: Underscores resilience, flexibility, problem-solving and self-motivation.

  • Family care: Improves empathy, time management and problem-solving abilities.

  • Retraining or sabbatical: Broadens your perspective and refreshes your professional skills.

How to reenter the workforce successfully with these 10 tips

Tip 1: Set clear career goals

Before diving into the job market, take time to reflect on your career aspirations. Assess your motivations, desired career path and long-term goals. Consider what kind of work environment you thrive in and the roles that align with your skills and interests. Setting clear goals will help focus your job search and ensure you're targeting positions that genuinely interest you.

Aligning your career goals with your values and strengths not only makes your job search more effective but also leads to greater job satisfaction. Think about the industries and roles that excite you and how they fit into your long-term career plan.

Don't be afraid to dream big, but also set realistic and achievable milestones along the way. Breaking down your goals into smaller, manageable steps can make the process less overwhelming and more motivating.

Tip 2: Get your CV up-to-date

Your CV is your professional handshake with potential employers. Tailor it to highlight relevant skills and experiences gained during your break. Be honest about employment gaps and focus on achievements and learning experiences during that time. Use a skills-based CV format if necessary, emphasising skills over chronological work history.

Include a personal profile on your CV to address your career break positively, focusing on the skills and experiences that make you a strong candidate. Highlight any volunteer work, freelance projects or courses you completed during your break.

Ensure your CV is well-organised, free of errors and tailored to each job application. Customising your CV for different roles can significantly improve your chances of getting noticed by recruiters. To do this in a time-efficient way, we always recommend creating a master CV.

Learn more about how to explain unemployment on a CV.

CV and cover letter example after career break

Tip 3: Leverage LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for job seekers. Update and improve your LinkedIn profile with recent activities, skills and experiences. Use the platform to network, reconnect with former colleagues and join industry groups. Don't forget to give and ask for recommendations and endorsements from your connections.

Actively engage on LinkedIn by sharing articles, commenting on posts and joining discussions to increase your visibility, helping you stay informed about industry trends and showcasing your expertise.

You can also use LinkedIn's job search features to find opportunities and set up job alerts for roles that match your criteria. Networking on LinkedIn can lead to referrals, which significantly increase your chances of landing an interview.

Tip 4: Generate new skills

Identify any skill gaps and pursue relevant courses or certifications. Utilise online resources like Coursera, Udemy or local community classes. Stay updated with industry trends and advancements. Continuous learning demonstrates to potential employers you commit to professional growth and keep your skills current.

When applying for a job, include a blend of technical aptitudes and in-demand soft skills for your industry. Hard skills can be self-learned or developed through online courses, while soft skills might be acquired through workshops or volunteering.

Document your new skills and any certifications on your CV and LinkedIn profile. This not only shows your proactive approach to self-improvement but also makes you a more competitive candidate.

skills on a CV after employment gap

Tip 5: Network and find mentors

Networking can open doors to new opportunities. If you’re rejoining the workforce after unemployment, reconnect with professional contacts, attend industry events and join relevant groups. Seek mentors who can provide guidance, support and insider knowledge during your transition.

A mentor can offer valuable advice, help you avoid common pitfalls and provide encouragement as you reenter the workforce. Look for someone whose career path you admire and who is willing to invest time in your growth.

Join professional associations and attend conferences or webinars to expand your network. Building a strong professional network can lead to job leads, references and valuable industry insights.

Tip 6: Invest in career coaching

The initial financial outlay is often outweighed by the personalised advice and powerful strategies career coaches can offer. They can help you highlight your strengths, improve your CV, prepare for interviews and navigate the job market effectively. A career coach can provide a significant return on investment by helping you land the right job more quickly and with greater confidence.

A career coach can also assist in setting realistic goals and developing a structured job search plan. Their expertise can be particularly valuable if you’re looking to switch industries or roles.

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Pro tip

For the best results, take the time to choose a career coach who specialises in your field or the type of transition you're making. This will ensure they have the relevant experience and connections to provide the best possible guidance.

Tip 7: Explore flexible work options

Your return to work will always end up different than planned. You need to be flexible. Working arrangements like part-time, remote work or job-sharing provide ample opportunity to transition back into the workforce and provide a better work-life balance. Research those companies known for offering flexible work arrangements and target your job search accordingly.

Flexible work can also serve as a stepping stone, allowing you to gradually increase your work hours as you adjust. This can be particularly beneficial if you have ongoing personal commitments.

Companies are often willing to consider flexible working so long as you are transparent. When interviewing, be clear about your flexibility needs and discuss how you can meet the company’s requirements while also maintaining your preferred work-life balance.

Tip 8: Step outside your comfort zone and build confidence

Returning to work after a break can be daunting, especially after redundancy or during a career change. Recognise and list your strengths and achievements. Practice self-affirmation, seek supportive networks and consider joining workshops or groups focused on building confidence and resilience.

Confidence comes from knowing your value and being prepared to communicate it effectively to potential employers. Practice talking about your career break positively, emphasising the skills and experiences you gained.

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Pro tip

Engage in activities that make you feel competent and successful, whether they’re related to work or hobbies. Surround yourself with positive influences who encourage and support your professional journey.

Tip 9: Develop job search strategies

Track your job applications using methods like job boards, company websites and recruitment agencies. Create a job search plan with daily or weekly goals to stay organised and motivated. Take advantage of the many returner programs and internships designed for people reentering the workforce. Tailor your applications to each role and follow up on applications, especially if you are applying for jobs via email

Research the companies you’re applying to and customise your cover letter and application to match their requirements. This extra effort shows your genuine interest and can make a significant difference.

Tip 10: Prepare for interviews

Thoroughly research potential employers and prepare for common interview questions. Practice your responses and consider doing mock interviews. Highlight your unique experiences and skills gained during your career break. Confidence in interviews comes from preparation and practice. Calm your interview nerves by rehearsing your answers and refining your pitch.

Understand the company’s values, culture and recent achievements. This knowledge will help you tailor your responses and show that you’re well-prepared and genuinely interested in the role.

Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method - popular in the Civil Service selection process - to structure your answers, especially when discussing your career break. This method helps you provide clear and concise responses that highlight your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.

How to write a professional CV after an employment gap

Knowing how to write a modern CV in a competitive employment market is crucial for your journey back into work. Creating a standout CV after an employment gap involves:

  1. Use a simple CV format: Emphasise skills over chronological work history.

  2. Craft a personal profile: Address your career break and focus on your value proposition.

  3. Highlight relevant skills: Showcase achievements and experiences gained during the break. Be sure to include the top skills employers look for.

  4. Tailor your CV: Focus on keywords and requirements from the job description for each application.

  5. Focus on work experience: Clearly state your work experience, even if it includes casual or freelance work during your break. If you have little to no relevant experience or you are creating a CV for a first job, focus on transferable skills and volunteer positions.

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Key takeaways

  1. Reflect on and set clear career goals.

  2. Update your CV to highlight relevant skills and experiences.

  3. Leverage LinkedIn for networking and job searching.

  4. Enhance your skills through courses and certifications.

  5. Seek mentors and consider career coaching for personalised advice.

How to Explain Unemployment on a CV

Next steps?

Give your CV the introduction it deserves. Explore our cover letter templates and get step-by-step guidance on how to make the best first impression. Leave nothing to chance and connect with our professional CV Writing Service for an expert seal of approval.


Should I add a career break on LinkedIn?

Yes, it's advisable to add a career break on LinkedIn. Be transparent about your career gap and use it as an opportunity to highlight any skills or experiences gained during that time. LinkedIn now offers a "Career Break" option you can add to your profile, allowing you to provide context and show potential employers that you’ve remained proactive and engaged.

How to reenter the workforce after 50?

Reentering the workforce after 50 can be challenging but achievable with the right strategies. Focus on updating your skills and CV, leveraging your extensive experience, and networking actively. Consider flexible work options and industries that value your expertise. Don't shy away from using modern job search tools like LinkedIn and job boards.

What is the returnship program in the UK?

Returnship programs in the UK are designed to help professionals reenter the workforce after a career break. These programs offer paid short-term employment with training and support, aimed at updating skills and building confidence. They often lead to permanent positions and are typically offered by larger companies committed to diversity and inclusion.

What are the benefits of returning to work?

Returning to work can provide numerous benefits, including financial stability, professional growth, and personal fulfilment. It allows you to apply new skills and experiences, expand your professional network, and contribute to meaningful projects. Additionally, it can boost your self-esteem and provide a sense of purpose.

Is it hard to find a job after a break?

Finding a job after a break can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. The key is to approach your job search strategically. Update your skills, network actively, and be honest about your career gap. Use resources like returner programs and consider seeking career coaching for additional support.

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Updated July 10 2024


Written by

Will Campbell has over 10 years' experience writing for startups, employment, education and global brands. With a rich work history of over 30 part-time jobs, Will has become exceptionally skilled in advising others on how to write an interview-getting CV. When not tapping away at his keyboard, he can be found running or playing the nearest guitar. Connect via LinkedIn

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