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How to get back into work after extensive time off

Karina Beasley, managing director at creative recruitment consultancy, Gabriele, offers tips to help you make a smooth transition back to work after a long time off.

Karina Beasley, managing director, Gabriele
Karina Beasley, managing director, Gabriele

Returning to work after a prolonged period of time off can be daunting. It’s bound to be a bit scary! However, there are lots of things you can do to make sure you’re prepared to get back in the saddle. As recruiters, candidates ask us about this subject often so for those of you about to take the plunge, here’s a checklist of what you should be thinking about.

Networking

  • Get yourself on LinkedIn if you aren’t already.

  • Reconnect with old colleagues and generally get yourself back out there.

  • Let your friends and family know you’re on the lookout for work again. We find some of the best people we meet are through referrals from people we already know - so you never know what might pop up.

Get some up-to-date experience

  • Use your network to suggest short-term work placements - it’ll bulk out your CV and make it more current.

  • Even if it means something general but in your preferred industry, it’s worth just getting your foot in the door to start with.

The direct approach

  • Get in touch with the companies you want to work for directly. 

  • Highlight early on what you can do for them and which organisations you have done this for previously. 

  • Dates are not necessary yet, just your key skills.

Sell yourself

  • Be proud of what you’ve achieved in the past! 

  • Also be proud of any other life skills or experiences that will help you further. It counts! What have you been doing in the time off that might be valuable going forward?

Do your research

  • A lot might have happened while you were away. Show you’re keen and have kept a working knowledge of the industry. 

  • Just because you’ve had a break doesn’t mean that you’re out of the game.

Review your salary expectations

  • If you’ve been away for a while you probably won’t be able to jump straight back in at the same salary level so, at least to begin with, you may have to take a cut.

  • Don’t assume you’ll be the right cultural fit for a junior role if you were senior before you stopped working. Be realistic about what you’re looking for, your actual level and sell the skills you already have.

Brush up on your tech skills

  • People often assume that if you’ve had time off you won’t be as tech savvy, so try to demonstrate your skills are up-to-date.

  • If you are lacking confidence in this area it’s worth looking into online tutorials or courses, just to get yourself up to speed.

If you’re a creative…

  • If you haven’t had done any hands-on design projects for a while, your portfolio may look a bit dated. Take out any work that really does look too dated to show, and inject some new life into it by doing one or two of your own mini projects. 

  • Maybe pick a brand that looks in need of rejuvenating, set yourself a brief, and show your ideas for it. This will show that you may have been out of the swing for a few years, but creatively, your ideas/thinking are bang up to date. 

  • Be honest about this though – label it as a self-initiated project, because that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s your design work.

Talk to a recruiter

  • Like us! 

  • Recruiters are in a very good position to connect you with people you might not be able to connect with otherwise. It’s also good to talk to someone who might be able to give you another perspective or even an off the wall idea you hadn’t thought of.

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