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Dear Career Coach,

I’m dreading the prospect of a return to work after taking a five year career break to focus on my young family. How can I convince an employer I still have relevant skills after I’ve been out of the market for so long?

I’m dreading the prospect of a return to work after taking a five year career break to focus on my young family. Although I have been actively involved in different voluntary activities during this time, including acting as the Treasurer for my children’s PTA, these are not directly related to my profession. How can I convince an employer I still have relevant skills when I’ve been out of the market for so long?

It is understandable to feel a loss of confidence after taking a career break, but bear in mind that while a few technical skills may be a little rusty, you were a successful professional before your break and with a bit of support, you can get right back on track.

You don’t mention your profession or occupation prior to your career break or the type of job that you now want to take up, but a good starting point is to clarify your job goals and research the criteria that employers are looking for.

While the experience you have gained over the past five years may not be directly relevant, you were able to build and enhance many soft skills during the time and you should focus on identifying these and selling them. In your role as Treasurer, for example, you would have been utilising your analytical and numerical skills, as well as working with other people on the PTA leadership team which will have enhanced your interpersonal and team skills. You will also have acquired experience from the other voluntary activities that you undertook and it is important that you don’t minimise this as it will all have added to what you are bringing to the job you now seek.

If you haven’t already been doing so, start to research and update yourself on developments that are taking place in your industry and attend some networking events to widen your circle of contacts and increase your job search opportunities. Update your LinkedIn profile and take a more active role by joining in and starting discussions in groups related to your profession and industry. Aim to re-establish contacts with former colleagues and friends and let people know the kind of job roles you are seeking so they can offer advice and information about potential opportunities.

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If there are skills gaps that have arisen as a result of your career break, you will need to identify them and consider how you can fill them; potentially through training or even temporary work and/or projects to help get you back into the swing of things.

Consider revising your CV so that it focuses more on skills and emphasises the attributes needed for the job you are after. Boost your confidence by practicing talking about your past work experience and achievements, and prepare examples that illustrate the competencies for the job role that you want so that this feels more natural and fluid when you are invited for interviews. It will also help remind you of the achievements you already have under your belt, but the details of which you may have forgotten.

Your career break doesn’t need to be an insurmountable hurdle to getting back on track and following the advice above will help give you the tools and the confidence to take your career forward.

All the best!

Need some help to solve your career dilemma?  Whether you are a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, our experienced careers coaches can work with you – on an individual or group basis – to help you get back on track with your career. 

From online CV checking to face-to-face coaching and presentation skills training to making the right impact at interview, our careers services will help you reach your goals. 

Contact us now to discuss your needs:  careers@reconnectafrica.com




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