How to write your New Year return-to-work action plan

Is Returning to Work one of your 2019 Resolutions? 

How do you make sure you don’t let this fall by the wayside like New Year resolutions tend to do? Shift your thinking to make Returning to Work a goal, with a clear, specific and motivating personal action plan. Here are some of our suggestions on actions to include.
Action Steps to Get Back to Work

1. Clarify what you want from work 

Start by considering what your motivations are for returning to work. Do you need, or want, to earn your own money? Are you looking for the status a professional job brings? Do you want to be a role model for your children? Returning to work after a career break is a great opportunity to think about what you really want to do, so consider what kind of working life and job you would find most fulfilling and enjoyable. Think about what you most enjoyed about past roles and whether or not you need flexibility. You may prefer a corporate employed role, to work as a freelancer or to set up your own business.
Identifying your strengths can help you decide which career direction to take. And read our tips if you feel you have too many return-to-work options or too few. Don’t over-analyse at this stage – the ‘what shall I do with my life?’ career questions can rarely be solved just by brain-power. Move to action using a Test and Learn approach.

2. Fill the gaps in your work experience/skillset

Once you’re clearer on the broad direction you want to take, it’s time to identify any gaps in your experience and any new skills you will need. Get up to date with your old industry, or learn about a new one, by taking professional courses through industry associations, attending conferences, seminars or webinars, signing up to relevant newsletters and meeting up with ex-colleagues. Find courses locally through Floodlight and look at the free online MOOCs (Massive Online Courses). If you’re worried about your IT skills being out of date, take a course before you get back to work. Strategic volunteering can build your skills and experience and may even provide a route back to work.

3. Craft your return-to-work story

Talking about your career break and how it fits into your professional story can be tricky. Use our ‘Career Break Sandwich’ method so that you don’t fall into the trap of focusing solely on your career break (and neglecting your professional background) in response to the classic questions “what do you do?” or “tell me about your background?”.

4. Rebuild your work confidence

A loss of professional confidence can be a key factor in preventing you from making a successful return to work. Don’t let this hamper you – read our blogs on Re-establishing Your Confidence and addressing the Confidence Gap.

5. Re-write your CV and develop your LinkedIn profile

If you’ve been out of the workplace for any length of time it’s likely to be many years since you last wrote your CV. We have lots of CV information in the Advice Hub section of our website including How to Write Your Post-Break CV and the use of Action Words. A strong LinkedIn profile is also important – read our blog on how to make the most of your profile.

6. Select potential routes back to work

There are many routes back to work such as returnshipsnetworking and creative crafting of a role. Consider which ones would work best for you.
7. Prepare for interviews
Facing your first interview for many years can be daunting, and we have lots of advice on our website to help you prepare. Six Essential Steps for Successful Interviewing is a good place to start. We have advice on how to prepare for competency-based interviews, informational interviews and telephone interviews. You can also read how to respond if an interviewer tells you you’re overqualified for the role and what to wear to interviews.
8. Maintain your motivation

Our motivation to achieve our goals inevitably fades after a while. Learn from psychology research about how to stay motivated longer-term.

9. Come along to our Women Returners 2019 Conference!
If you’d like a return to work boost, join us in London on 19 May. It’s a highly motivational day packed with return-to-work advice, support and inspiration and the opportunity to meet informally with employer sponsors and other like-minded women. The day will be relevant to you no matter where you are on your return-to-work journey. Find out more about our Conference here and book your place at the Super Early Bird price of £80 (available until 27 January).
Sign up to our free network for more advice, support and job opportunities.

You’ll find much more help and advice on our website.

Make your CV stand out: Use Action Verbs

If you’ve taken a long career break it could be many
years, and possibly even decades, since you last wrote a CV. Don’t just redo an old version, as CVs are now written in a very different way (see How to Write Your Post-Break CV).

One of the major changes is the shift from talking about your past responsibilities to highlighting your achievements. Gone are the days
when simply describing your previous roles was enough to secure an interview. Now you need to explain what you achieved in previous jobs which made you stand out.

We suggest you aim for 3-5 bullet points for each of your previous roles (and for your career break if you have done any work/volunteering/studying or developed skills in other ways such as relocation).

Beginning your bullet point with an action verb is a great way to start off.



What are action verbs?

These are some examples:

 

achieved     completed     conducted     implemented    improved     negotiated
produced     secured        created         established       launched     developed
organised    revitalised     evaluated      restructured     simplified    drove

Why are action verbs important in your CV?

  • Action verbs describe your past achievements in a compelling way that highlights your strengths and suitability for the role you’re applying for.
  • Action verbs keep bullet points short – particularly important if you have lots of past experience and are trying to keep your CV to the recommended maximum two sides of A4. For example, ‘Delivered XYZ project on time and within budget’, reads better than ‘I was responsible for delivering XYZ project on time and within budget.’
  • Action verbs have more impact. They are specific, strong and powerful. If a recruiter has lots of CVs to sift through, action verbs make your achievements stand out. They also help if employers use applicant tracking software programmed to look for specific words to describe the experience needed for a role.
  • Action verbs help you to be specific in describing what the results of your actions were and how you achieved them.
  • Action verbs can highlight your relevant skills/competencies (see below)

Which action verbs should you use? 

  • Scan the job advert and job description, similar job ads in the same industry, and the company’s website to see which verbs they use. Describing your past experiences using these words will give you the best chance of making your CV fit the bill.
  • Look at this action verb list which groups action words by skills group. Think about which skills you want to demonstrate – again, matching this back to the skills/competencies asked for on the job advert
  • Don’t use the same action verb more than twice. Use an online thesaurus or the action verb list to avoid repetition and keep the recruiter’s interest.

Do read our other blogs How to Write Your Post-Break CV and Return to Work CV Tips for other advice on writing your back-to-work CV.

Sign up to our free network for more advice, support and job opportunities.

You’ll find much more help and advice on our website.

How to be a Successful Returner Candidate

There are many reasons why employers want to attract those returning to the workplace after an extended break. Returning professionals offer a wealth of experience, maturity and a fresh perspective. Employers are now starting to recognise this and other positives of bringing returners into their organisation. By hiring returners an employer is able to tackle skills shortages, improve gender and age diversity, tap into a high-calibre talent pool, and improve their organisation’s attractiveness to potential employees in general.
But what do employers look for in individual candidates and how can you make the most of your skills and experience when you apply for a returner programme or any open role?
Here are our five top tips:
  1. Don’t try to hide your break on your CV or make excuses for it in the
    interview. If you’re applying for a returner programme, it is especially
    important to mention that you have been on a career break, including
    the length of your break at the time the programme starts. You risk
    being excluded from these opportunities if you try to cover up your
    break. If it’s been a while since you updated your CV and cover letter,
    read our blogs How to Write Your Post-Break CV and How to Write a Back-To-Work Cover Letter.
  2. Don’t undersell yourself. Learn to tell your story. Make sure you’re aware of, and appreciate, all the skills, experience and perspective that you can bring to an organisation. It’s likely that you will return to the workplace recharged, refreshed and enthusiastic to take on the challenge with new skills developed during your break. Make the most of this in interviews. This is the time to blow your own trumpet!
  3. Low professional confidence is common in women who have taken a career break. If you feel this is an issue for you, take steps to build your confidence back up again so that you believe in yourself and in your skills and experience. And don’t forget to read the success stories on our website for proof that, no matter how long your break, you can get back into a great job.
  4. Research and prepare thoroughly for interviews. Consider why you are a great fit for the organisation/role and articulate what sets you apart. Develop detailed examples of your competencies and skills – including transferrable ones – and prepare answers to typical questions.
  5. Show your enthusiasm and positivity. How you behave and the way in which you communicate is just as important as what you say in an interview. Make sure the interviewer can see the energy and motivation you’ll bring to their organisation!

Remember that employers aren’t doing you a favour. They have sound business reasons for encouraging returners back into the workplace to take on stimulating and rewarding roles. Taking the time to prepare yourself to make the most of this will put you in a strong position to resume a successful career.

Make sure you have signed up to our free network for more advice, support and job opportunities.

How to Write your Post-Break CV

When you’re launching yourself back into the job market after a long career break, updating your CV can feel daunting. However, this is your chance to convince a prospective employer that you would be a good investment for their company and so it’s worth taking the time and effort to get it right. Bear in mind that employers can receive hundreds of CVs for every advertised job, so you need to make sure that yours stands out (for all the right reasons!)

Some returners think that a skills-based CV would be a good idea to try to ‘hide’ the career break. However, we wouldn’t advise this approach as we find that recruiters usually find it irritating to have to piece together your work history. It’s also worth noting that if you’re applying to a returner programmes, your application may be passed over if you cover up your career break.

We recommend sticking with a clear structure, such as this:

  • Heading: personal & contact details
  • Profile
  • Key skills (optional)
  • Career history
  • Education / training
  • Languages (if fluent)
  • Interests (optional)

Heading

  • Don’t use the heading “Curriculum Vitae”, as the sifting software typically used in recruitment these days may think that this is your name!
  • Instead put your name as the central heading, with your contact details (email/phone) underneath.
  • Don’t include a photo or your date of birth, age, gender, marital status or details about your children as these have become inappropriate on CVs following discrimination legislation.

Profile

  • Open with a profile statement, describing in 2-3 sentences the highlights from your background and qualifications, adapting this to the job opportunity as much as possible.
  • State you are returning to work after a career break.
  • If you are shifting sector/role, you can also state that you are looking for opportunities in [target sector]. Otherwise you don’t need an objective.

Key Skills (optional)

  • For each job application, tailor your skills to fit the requirements set out in the job description. Try to use their key criteria words, as the first CV screen may be performed automatically by keyword sifting software. It also means that the recruiter does not have to work as hard to understand why you would be right for the role.
  • Avoid a laundry list of generic skills (strong team player, highly-motivated, etc.) as this won’t impress anyone! Use specific skills such as strategic planning & implementation, procurement, digital media marketing, etc.
 

Career History

  • In this section, list your experience in reverse date order
  • For each job, give 3-5 bullet points for specific achievements and contributions, not just your responsibilities. Quantify achievements if possible.
  • If you have a long career history, it’s fine just to list early career role titles.
  • Include your “Career Break” as a section with dates. You can include a reason for your break (e.g. parental career break; career break for caring responsibilities) but you don’t have to.
  • Include any work you have done during your career break, including running a business (no matter how small!) and freelance projects. Also include any skilled volunteering roles you held during that time (e.g. School Governor, Charity Treasurer). A LinkedIn study from 2011 found that 41% of hiring managers consider volunteer work to be equally as valuable as paid work, so don’t hide this experience in a voluntary work section at the end.
 

Education / training

  • In addition to your highest-level qualifications, include any relevant training you have completed during your career break, even where this was a short and/or online course.
  • If you don’t have recent work experience, but your break has included significant further education or professional qualifications, you may like to put this section before your career history.
  • There is no need to include your A-Levels, GCSEs (or O-levels) or school (unless specifically requested to do so)
 

Interests

  • Don’t list bland interests (e.g. reading, cinema, etc.). Only include those that are relevant, unusual or impressive (e.g. society memberships, triathlons, etc.), otherwise there’s no need to include an interests section at all.
 

Final words of advice

  • Appearance: Use font size 10-12 and write in the third person with no pronouns, for example: “Reduced the month-end accounting timetable by 3 days”.
  • Length: Keep your CV to 2 sides and aim for about 1,000 words. This means you need to include only the most important pieces of information, so prioritise and leave the rest out.
  • Format: Make sure the CV looks good on the page and that the formatting is perfect. When emailing your CV, it is best practice to send it as a pdf to avoid any ‘format jumps’ that can result from viewing an editable document (such as a Word document) on a different device.
  • References: It’s no longer necessary to give details of references or to say “references available on request”, so leave this out.
  • Grammar / spelling: Check that there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes and that you have been consistent in tense with all your verbs. When you are happy, ask a friend to look over it for you with a fresh pair of eyes for any errors you may have missed.

Once you’ve perfected your CV, it’s time to think about your cover letter. Read our how-to guide to get started!

For further advice and support in your return-to-work journey, you can sign up to our free network here

 
 
Note: Original post from 2014; updated in May 2018

Three strategies to help women achieve their full potential

When we’re talking to people who are thinking about going back to work after a career break, there are certain books we recommend time and again, usually because they provide great tips on the practical elements of finding and applying for new jobs, or important strategies on overcoming psychological barriers to returning to work. We thought it would be useful to start sharing these recommendations here on our blog so that more people could benefit from them.

We’re kicking off with Tara Mohr’s Playing Big, which we love because it sets out practical tools to help women deal with the internal blocks and external challenges that prevent them from achieving their dreams, such as making that move back to the workplace.

Here are three of her strategies that we found to be particularly relevant to returners:

1) Learning to recognise your inner critic

2) Unhooking from criticism

3) Communicating with more impact

Learning to recognise your inner critic

We all have an inner critic, the voice of self-doubt, of ‘not me’, of ‘I’m not good enough’. This voice can become stronger for people who have been out of the workplace for a long time. While it’s impossible to silence it, it’s relatively easy to learn to relate to it in a different way:

  • Don’t try to argue with your critic. You won’t win! The trick is to notice the voice, recognise it for what it is, and refuse to let it determine your choices.
  • You could create a character for your inner critic to help you differentiate it from your true voice and/or try a visualisation exercise where you imagine turning down the volume on the critic’s voice whenever it pipes up.
  • Remember that experiencing fear or doubt doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong track. In fact, our inner critic is never more vocal than when we’re stepping outside of our comfort zones, pushing ourselves, and on the verge of achieving something amazing.

Unhooking from criticism

Many women are relationship-oriented, which means that we work hard to preserve harmony and care about other people’s perspectives. While this is largely a positive trait, it can hold us back if it translates to a fear of disapproval. Bear these ideas in mind next time you find yourself overly worried about other people’s opinions:

  • A negative response doesn’t mean that you’ve done something wrong. Feedback is crucial: not because it tells you something about the value of your work, but because it tells you how it is likely to be received by the people you are hoping to reach. This also means that you don’t need to incorporate all feedback, but instead carefully select the parts that are strategically useful, and let the rest go, e.g. a former colleague’s opinion on your CV is more valuable than that of a friend in an unrelated field.
  • Criticism most affects us when it reflects a negative belief we hold about ourselves. The rest bounces right off. Use painful criticism as a way of discovering, and addressing, those negative beliefs that might be holding you back in your decision to return to the workplace.

Communicating with more impact

Do you ever feel the struggle between wanting to say something but holding back? Between sharing an idea and simultaneously diminishing it? Women are particularly affected by this, and are often guilty of dumbing down communication in order to be more likeable, at the expense of appearing competent.

Before hitting send on your next email to a potential or new employer:

  • Eliminate any undermining words and phrases (‘just’, ‘kind of’’).
  • Remove any unnecessary apologies (‘Sorry if this is a silly question’).
  • Take out any phrases that suggest that what you have to say isn’t worth much time/space (‘I thought I’d tell you a little bit about’, ‘just a minute of your time’).
  • Replace questions such as ‘does that make sense?’, which imply you feel you’ve been incoherent, with phrases such as ‘I look forward to hearing your thoughts’.
  • Delete the disclaimers (‘I’m no expert but’) and just say what you have to say.

This doesn’t mean being aggressive in your communication, but rather making a conscious effort to express warmth – e.g. expressing a genuine interest in the other person – without relying on diminishing phrases.

Watch this space for further reading recommendations, and please do comment with any books you may have found useful in your own return to work journey!

Posted by Elaine

Return-to-work CV Tips and Ideas

Last month we hosted a free webinar for our Network members on how to create an effective CV for your job search. We offered many tips and insights about what recruiters look for and addressed questions such as how to present your career break, whether to write a functional CV rather than a chronological one and how to take advantage of open questions in job applications. We have collected the key insights in this post, for those of you who missed the webinar.

How should I structure my CV?

Recruiters will expect to see three key sections:

  • Profile / Executive Summary: this describes your background, expertise and role you are seeking in 2 -3 sentences
  • Key Skills: list your 5 or so key skills, with brief evidence. Avoid generic skills like team player, leader, highly organised. Use specific skills such as strategic planning & implementation, procurement, digital media marketing
  • Professional Experience in reverse chronological order: state your achievements and contribution, not a role description. If you have a long career history, it’s fine just to list early career role titles.

Following these sections include your Education & Professional Development, Memberships and other skills/activities (fluent languages, interests etc). Keep your CV to two pages in length.

Avoid functional CVs – recruiters don’t like them because they make it hard to piece together your employment history.

What should I include/exclude?


When deciding the content, think about the business case you are making:

  • Why should they hire you?
  • What expertise will you bring?
  • What sets you apart from other candidates?

How do I describe my career break?

  • Don’t try to hide it, particularly if you are applying for returner programmes where having a key break is one of the eligibility criteria
  • Call it a planned career break
  • Include any work (paid or voluntary) and training you have done which is relevant to the role you are seeking
  • You can include a reason for your break (e.g. parental career break; career break for caring responsibilities) but you don’t have to

How do I answer the ‘tell us about you’ question on online application forms?

This question gives you the opportunity to do more than just repeat what is in your profile statement. You can use it in two ways:

  • to highlight aspects of your skills and your expertise that are relevant to the role you’re applying for, to encourage the recruiter to look in detail at your CV
  • to express your motivation for and interest in the role which you don’t otherwise have the chance to do

One final tip
As 97% of recruiters will reject a CV with 2 or more typos, take plenty of time to check your CV carefully and get others to read it through with a fresh eye, to spot errors you might have missed.

For more advice on CVs check our previous posts:
How to write your post break CV
The ‘CV gap’ barrier: evidence it exists & how to get over it
What about the gap in my CV?

Posted by Katerina

Answers to some common return-to-work questions

We are often asked lots of interesting questions and thought it would be useful to share our answers to a few of these which we find to be common concerns after a career break.

I’ve done nothing in my break apart from bring up my children. What do I say about my break on my CV?

We always advise returners to specify that they have taken a career break rather than leaving an unexplained gap. It can be stated simply, with dates (e.g. 2008-date Parental career break), and does not need further detail if you were totally focused on caring responsibilities. It is important to state in your profile statement and cover letter that following your career break you are now motivated and committed to returning to work. In addition, don’t dismiss unpaid or low-paid work that you have done during your break which employers could find useful and relevant (e.g. organising a large event, setting up a small home business, studying for a qualification). Finally, if you are getting ready to go back to work, now could be the right time to find some relevant work experience, or to update your knowledge by studying for a qualification, to demonstrate your renewed interest in the field you are returning to.

For further reading:
How to write your post break CV
The ‘CV gap’ barrier: evidence it exists & how to get over it

I’m an experienced doctor with no wish to return to practising medicine following my break. How do I work out what my transferable skills are and who would find me useful?

We suggest that you approach the question of what to do next in a different way: rather than try to work out where your experience and interests might fit, we recommend that you start with investigating what your personal strengths and interests are so that you can focus on finding work that you will find satisfying and fulfilling. There are a number of books listed on our website which can help you to do this self-analysis. Alternatively, some people find working with a career coach is helpful to support you with working out your new direction.

For further reading:
Setting your career compass: identifying your strengths
How to identify work you will find fulfilling

I’ve relocated from overseas and don’t know how to get started with building a new network.


A useful way to think about your network is that it consists of people from your past, your present and your future. Your past network includes your previous work colleagues, suppliers and customers and school and university class-mates. Even if they are based in your prior location, they might well have contacts in the UK which they can introduce to you. Your current network includes all the people you engage with in your community in your daily life while your future network consists of people you can connect with through new activities you intend to start or training you plan to do. If you have a professional qualification, make sure that you contact the equivalent professional body in the UK to find out about membership, conversion requirements (if any) and networking events. An essential tool for building your network will be LinkedIn so make sure that you create a basic profile and build your online network too.

For further reading:
Five ways to build your back-to-work networks
Top tips for enjoyable networking
LinkedIn – an essential tool for your return to work

If you have other questions you’d like to ask, please get in touch with us or join our private LinkedIn group and share ideas with other returners.

Posted by Katerina

Regain your (email) identity

Amir … RichardYoung@ … Sarah & Simon … TheJohnsons@ …

 
These are all variations on email names and addresses which have recently shown up in my womenreturners.com inbox. Stay-at-home dads looking to get back to work? Emails from friends? No, all of these messages were from professional women wanting advice about returning to work.

What’s in a name?

It sounds like a small thing, but don’t underestimate what your email name and address say about you. An email is often your first point of contact in your job exploration, be it for a networking connection or a recruitment application. In the same way as recent research* has found that you’re less likely to appear hirable to recruiters if you have a funny or informal email address, using a family, joint or husband’s mail name/address can affect how people see you. Your electronic identity risks labeling you as a mum or wife, with all the accompanying stereotypes, rather than the giving credible professional image you want to convey.

There is also something symbolic about setting up a personal email address for your back-to-work communications. If you’re at home looking after your family, it’s easy to lose sight of yourself while you’re caring for others and being someone’s mum/daughter. This is one simple way to start regaining your own independent identity.

How to create a professional email identity

  1. If you only have a family or joint email, set up a personal one – it’s a 5 minute task using a provider such as hotmail or google mail.
  2. Make sure that your work email address is a formal one, ideally some variation on your full name (eg. jane.price@xx.com).
  3. Use the name you’ll be using for work and on your CV. Be consistent – don’t make your email your family name if you’ll be using your maiden name.
  4. Whether it’s a new or an existing address, check how your email name appears when it’s received. You can see this by sending a test email. Make sure it’s your full name that comes up & if not change the user name in your email settings.
  5. And, of course, make sure you add the new address to Outlook, your phone and anywhere else you monitor emails so you can easily monitor and promptly reply to all your work-related emails.

Research from VU University Amsterdam in Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking journal

Related posts on the psychological side of regaining your identity
Reconnecting with your professional self
Who am I anyway?

Posted by Julianne

LinkedIn – an essential tool for your return to work

If you’re getting ready to return to work – and have been following this blog –  we hope you’ll have a CV drafted, a list of contacts and an idea of organisations you’d like to target. Do you also have a LinkedIn profile or any idea of the many uses of this networking site?  LinkedIn is essential for your return to work as it is your ‘public face’ where people you contact in your networking and job search will gain an impression of your skills and experience. And it is increasingly used by recruiters searching for candidates.  So, you need a profile and it has to present you in a professional and credible way.

Key elements of your profile

You can spend many hours adding to and fine tuning your profile but none of this will matter much if the following elements are missing:

  • Photo – This is vital and it has to be a proper photo, not a holiday snap with your family or one taken while you are sitting in front of a computer/tablet screen with your head at an odd angle.  It doesn’t have to be taken by a professional but you need to look professional in it, even if you are standing in your back garden.
  • Title – Don’t make your title ‘career break’ or ‘homemaker’. Relate it to your past experience if this is relevant to the roles you are targeting eg. financial services professional. You don’t have to limit yourself to one title if you have a portfolio of interests eg. Accountant | Writing expert
  • Summary statement – This is the first thing that people will read about you and so it worth spending some time getting right.  If you have a personal profile on your CV you can use it here, just changing to the 1st person.  Keep it factual rather than using overblown adjectives. It is important to communicate your past skills and experience in this space, and possibly the type of role you are seeking.
  • Career details – Make sure that these are consistent with your CV (years, job titles, qualifications) but don’t include as much detail as on your CV. This is more of a ‘shop window’.
  • Career break – Include your career break, don’t try to hide it, & briefly explain the reason eg ‘parenting career break’ or ‘career break for travel’. This is definitely preferable to having an unexplained gap which will just raise questions in the reader. Remember to include any significant voluntary, freelance or entrepreneurial roles that you’ve had during your break.

While you are refining your profile, it’s a good idea to change your privacy settings to private so that your contacts are not continually updated.

How to use LinkedIn

LinkedIn can be used in so many ways for your return to work: networking, raising your profile, research and job postings are the main ones.  It is a great aid for those of us who are nervous of networking, as a way of getting an introduction, but it cannot replace getting out and meeting people face-to-face.

  • Networking – the first thing you need to do once you’ve created your profile is make connections. It’s an easy way to get back in touch with old colleagues. Invite people you know to link in with you and always use a personalised message. There are two reasons for this: you will start to make it known to your network that you are looking for work and you will gain access to their contacts once they have accepted your link.  You will discover connections that you would never have known about otherwise and you can then ask your primary contacts for an introduction to their connections (your secondary contacts). How much simpler could it be to get an introduction!
  • Profile raising – A good way to raise your profile on LinkedIn is by joining groups.  These can be alumni groups of your former employers or educational institutions as well as industry specific or special interest groups.  Once you are a member of groups you can initiate or contribute to discussions on topics; you will see that people ask questions, post interesting articles and start conversations.  By following groups you will find out more about the current issues facing the group and by contributing with a comment, question or article your profile will increase.
  • Research – LinkedIn is a great tool for finding people who work in a particular industry, organisation or role.  Just type your search term into the bar at the top of the page and a list will be generated of all your primary, secondary and tertiary contacts that meet the search criterion.  You might be surprised what you discover!  To make contact with secondary and tertiary contacts you will need to ask your primary contacts for an introduction.  They will find it much easier to help you when you can ask for a specific person.
  • Job postings/approaches – more and more employers are using LinkedIn as a recruitment tool (and avoid paying recruiter fees) so you might receive a direct approach about a role.  Additionally, job postings are often added to group notices and LinkedIn itself emails bulletins of vacancies that it thinks match your profile (although these can be a bit erratic).
LinkedIN itself offers free webinars to help people make the most of the site.
If you have any further questions that haven’t been covered, please ask!
Posted by Katerina
We will be talking about practical steps to get back to work after a career break at Mumsnet Workfest on June 7th.  We hope to meet you there!

The ‘CV gap’ barrier: Evidence it exists & how to get over it

One of the reasons that Katerina & I set up this blog was because we were feeling frustrated by continual media reports equating a career break with career suicide. We wanted to offer a more positive voice of encouragement and advice. So I was a bit reluctant to start this post with some dispiriting news, but have decided that it’s better to accept the reality of the practical barriers faced by returners – then we can work out how to tackle them.



Research into CV Gaps – The Bad News

As a psychologist, I’m always checking for evidence to test my beliefs. I have heard many stories from highly experienced career break women of sending out scores of job applications and never even getting an interview. And conversely I also know a few women with 5+ years out who have found top positions through applying to job ads. So I’m always looking for research to check whether the ‘CV gap’ really is such a major block to being hired.

That’s why I was interested to read about a recent study into the barriers faced by the long term unemployed. Rand Ghayad sent out 4,800 job applications to 600 job ads, changing only experience and length of unemployment. He found there was an “unemployment cliff” at 6 months of
unemployment: an applicant with relevant experience who had been out of work for over 6 months was 3 times less likely to get an interview than someone with no relevant experience who had been out of work for a shorter time. Ghayad hypothesises that employers believe that “individuals with long nonemployment spells may have their
skills atrophy and as a result become relatively less productive.” So employers think that skills deteriorate after 6 months out of work …

Clearly involuntary unemployment is not the same as a voluntary career gap, but it’s not too much of a leap to see how this finding might be relevant to women whose work experience dates back a lot longer than 6 months. So we’re not imagining things … if you send out a job application for an advertised role, a lack of recent experience can lead to your CV being ignored by prospective hiring managers, regardless of the level and relevance of your previous roles.

7 Ways to Tackle the CV Gap Barrier

Acknowledging this is a real practical barrier, doesn’t mean it is insurmountable. What are some solutions if you want to get back into paid employment?

CV-based solutions

DON’T use a skills-based CV to try to ‘hide’ your break – recruiters usually find these irritating as they have to piece together your work history.


DO clearly state the years of your ‘Parental career break’ to avoid confusion
DO remember to include ALL work-related activities during your time out:

1. Include ‘professional’ voluntary and community work alongside your old employed roles under work experience, not in a separate section. A 2012 study found that relevant voluntary work can be valued just as highly as paid work by recruiters. A City recruitment director told me last week how impressed she was by an applicant’s career break position as Governor of a high-performing school. For other examples see our previous post on managing a CV gap

2. Don’t undersell any business ventures you have undertaken. One of my clients didn’t include a jewellery business she had set up in her break as she felt it was too small scale to interest a corporate recruiter. In fact this was clear evidence of entrepreneurial and business development skills.

3. If you have undertaken any project or freelance work, however minor, include this as ‘self-employed work’ in your work experience.

4. If you don’t have recent work experience but your break has included further education or professional qualifications, put your Education & Qualifications upfront. Look out for skills update or refresher courses in your area to boost this section.

5. Make sure that you have a Linked In profile and that it is consistent with your CV – don’t start it with the role you left x years ago!

Alternative strategies to applying to job ads

Nothing new here, but worth reiterating that sending your CV out for advertised jobs is the least likely way to get back into the workforce.

6. Use your contacts to find your next role and avoid getting lost in the demoralising recruitment black hole

7. Find a returnship or create your own. One of the reasons we’re so enthusiastic about returnships is that they provide recent and relevant CV experience, as well as potentially leading to permanent employment.

Do you have any other ideas?

Posted by Julianne