I speak to many people who are returning from a career break, whether it's been to raise a family, care for a sick relative, or take a year out to travel the world.
Some have been off for months and some for years.
They tend to come with two common themes:
Most people tend to undersell themselves. Often quite significantly. They've been out of the work place for a while, after all, and things have moved on. They feel apprehensive about returning. They are worried about what others will think if their skill levels aren't totally up to speed.
I don't believe you lose skills. Once you've got them, you've got them. They may be a little rusty, but as the old saying goes, "it's like riding a bike".
The thing is that there may be new technology that's come along while you were elsewhere, and there will definitely be things that you haven't done for a while because you only did them at work.
But remember, everyone who ever started a new job had to learn something, whether its the processes of the new company, new computer systems, or new skills to do a different role. You have done it before. Successfully. In every job you've ever had and in many other situations in your life.
Practical steps for a successful return
Remind yourself of the skills you already have
Write a list of all the things you used to do at work (What you did) and a short story about how you did them. Then look at the story and list all of the different skills and qualities you used.
Think about all the benefits those things brought to you, to colleagues, to customers, and anyone else who benefitted.
Now do the same for all the things you did while you were on your career break. Almost certainly you'll find a whole load of new skills that you might not have used in work, but could in the future.
If returning to work is an opportunity for you to make a career change, then that might be very useful.
If there are skills that you know you need that you feel a bit unsure about now, or will need to learn, brush up on them.
If you have taken a career break, it may be that as you return, your circumstances are different. What is important for you now is different from what was important for you back then.
So work out what's important for you now.
Is it more flexibility, is it using different skills, or something else. The thing is, don't just go back to what you know because it's the easy option. Only if its right for you.
Not to decide, is to decide to let circumstances decide for you. So take the actions to work out the skills you want to use and what's important to you. Then use your network, and recruiters if appropriate, to make that next career step happen.
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