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Returning to Work After A Career Break or Maternity Leave

Returning to work after a career break or maternity leave is a great opportunity to consider what you really want to do. There are a few important steps to consider before returning to work that can help make this transition easier:

1. Be clear about your career objectives

return to workPeople returning to work after a maternity leave or career break need to get back into ‘work mode’. Think about what makes work enjoyable and fulfilling for you, what and where you could work:

Did you work for a multinational but might prefer to work for a local business?

Did you work full-time but may now prefer part-time or flexible hours?

What does success mean to you?

What did you enjoy most about your past jobs?

Consider your options by talking to friends and researching online about the workplace and the jobs market. You need to be focused on work to find work. Returning to work may change your life – often for the better! Think about how working will affect your day to day life and your family.

Will you need more support around the house or with your children?

Will it affect the family dynamic? Will you need to rely on friends for more support?

Talk to your family and friends about how this change may affect you and them, emotionally and practically. If you’re thinking about a complete change of career, consider how your current skills transfer to other roles and the type of job you might want. You may still have 15 or 20 years of your career ahead of you, so it could be worthwhile investing in some professional career coaching support.

2. Boost your confidence

Professional self-confidence usually gets a knock during a long career break or a maternity leave. Remember that confidence comes from doing not thinking, so look for practical opportunities to regain your professional self. Think about volunteering for a local charity on fundraising or helping out at events or their facilities. Once you’re an established volunteer, ask for a project in your specific professional area. Charities often need help in finance, marketing and operational areas. Additionally, think of offering a local business some of your time, free of charge, to help out on a project or task. This informal ‘internship’ will bring you back up to speed and like the charity work, give your CV a more contemporary feel and give you an extra confidence boost.

3. Revise your tech skills

If you’ve become unaccustomed to some of the latest technology, find a way to start using the latest versions of MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. The systems you used to use in your work may also have changed or been updated. Ask your local contacts who may use the new systems to give you some pointers. Do you use the internet? Many businesses use internet-based systems and tools for sales, customer service and general management so research the current trends.

4. Update your professional qualifications and memberships

Get yourself back up-to-speed on your old industry (or learn about a new one) by completing professional courses through industry associations, attending conferences/seminars, signing up to relevant newsletters and meeting ex-colleagues to ‘talk shop’. If your industry memberships have lapsed, re-register. This could be a worthwhile investment as it signals your commitment to returning to work after a maternity leave or career break.

5. Check your sector knowledge

Either through online research or via your professional body, get up to speed on the latest developments and trends in your sector and your profession. Legislation, regulations and working practices will inevitably have changed since you last worked.

6. Amend your CV

It’s likely that your CV needs updating, in terms of format and content. If you have been volunteering or working for local organisations during your career break, put that on your CV as many employers respond positively to active people even if they haven’t been formally employed. Have some of your old employers changed name? Update them so employers can quickly understand who you worked for. Search online for CV writing hints and tips to make your CV as relevant and contemporary as possible – and check out Ten2Two’s CV and Interviewing tips!

7. Refresh your contacts through your network

Networking isn’t about approaching people and asking for a job. Networking is about making contact with people and is a part of life – you do it at the school gates and in your local communities all the time. Use LinkedIn to re-connect with some of your old work contacts. A large percentage of jobs are found through personal contacts and referrals so re-establishing contact is a good idea. Ex-colleagues won’t mind (and in many cases will welcome) a message from an old colleague saying ‘Hi, long time no speak’!…and it’s the easiest way to catch up on what’s going on in your industry.

8. Get help from professional recruiters

If you’re thinking about working locally, talk to your local friends and contacts who may either be employers themselves or who could put you in contact with local companies. Consider registering with organisations that specialise in helping returners such as Ten2Two.


Don’t forget to register with your local Ten2Two office and join our unique Ten2Two member community where you can attend FREE CV, cover letter, social media, presentation and interview skills workshops and meet other Ten2Two members.

5 min read