As someone who works with many women relaunching their careers after an extended career break, one of my key learnings has been the importance of staying relevant whilst taking time out of the workforce, whether that be for parental leave, carer’s leave, travel or simply to take time out to re-assess future career options. Regardless of the reason, staying relevant will reduce the risk of feeling out of touch and losing confidence when returning to the workforce at a later date.
Probably the silver lining of the pandemic has been that taking a career break has become much more accepted in society, with hiring managers and recruiters less likely to quiz a candidate on why they dared to take time out of the workforce. The pandemic forced many to have a career break without any choice whether that be due to business closures, reduction of workforce or parents resigning to effectively and sanely manage homeschooling.
Despite the ‘career break’ being more widely accepted by recruiters and hiring managers, it doesn’t solve the issue of individuals struggling with confidence when it comes time to relaunch their careers. Regardless of the reason, individuals tend to lose confidence when out of the workforce for an extended period of time and this is only exasperated the longer that they are at home. Staying connected and relevant during a career break will ensure that your career relaunch is so much easier when you return.
Some tips for staying connected and relevant
No matter whether you plan to return to your previous role or launch your career in a totally new direction, there are a number of steps that you can take to stay connected and in touch:
- Make a plan before you go on parental or carer’s leave. CircleIn has a very useful week-by-week Parental Leave Checklist that can be accessed on their website as well as many other helpful resources to help parents plan parental leave.
- Speak to your employer about utilising ‘Keeping in Touch’ days which are aimed at allowing an employee who is still on unpaid parental leave to go back to work for a few days. This is a great way for employees who are caring for a baby or newly adopted child to stay up to date with their workplace, refresh their skills and assist their return to work.
- Create a LinkedIn Profile and make an effort to log on even just 5 to 7 minutes a day. LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to keep connected with colleagues and stay abreast of company updates and industry news. Notifications on LinkedIn will update you of any changes in the status of colleagues, such as a promotion or when someone has moved to a new company. This is a great way to stay connected by sending them a quick ‘congratulations’ or ‘good luck’ message.
- Join a LinkedIn Group in your field of choice and post the following question to the group “Who are the subject-matter experts and which publications do people find the most valuable in our field?” You can then identify the best publications, newsletters, and academic studies in the field, and subscribe to them. Identify top subject matter experts in the field and ‘Follow’ them on LinkedIn. You can still receive their posts and updates without actually being connected.
- Follow subject matter experts on Twitter, YouTube, and other social media. Read their books and articles and listen to podcasts.
- Register for online industry events and webinars to keep current and to stay visible in your industry.
- Prior to returning, organise ‘informational interviews’ with colleagues to discuss what has changed at work in your absence and any updates in the industry that you should be aware of. This will prevent feeling out of the loop and being subject to any awkward or embarrassing moments.
- Consider using the time to upskill by completing short courses on learning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, Coursera, or Futurelearn to name just a few. This is a great way to stay current and to demonstrate to potential employers that you are up-to-date with new software, technology and methodologies being used in your industry.
- Keep up any licenses, accreditations, continuing education requirements, or certifications whilst on leave. Letting some of these lapses can cause a whole range of problems that may seriously delay your return.
- Consider strategic volunteering as a way to build confidence, develop skills and test a new area of interest. Strategic volunteering means that you seek out the volunteer opportunity specifically to gain experience in a particular company, industry or role.
There are boundless ways of staying in touch and connected during a career break. Even by implementing some of these actions, it will ensure that you maintain your confidence and effect a more successful return to work.
Written by CGA Careers Expert – Leah Lambart