Resources to help support those returning to work after a period of absence
Level of CIPD membership: Chartered Member
Reason for being out of work: Extended maternity
Length of time out of work: 1‐3 years
For how much of your time off were you actively seeking employment? 6‐12 months
What were the main hurdles you faced when seeking employment?
The main hurdle was the lack of availability of part‐time work at HR Manager or HRBP level. I was disappointed to find that part‐time roles at a senior level are few and far between, and there was very little flexibility or willingness from employers to consider anything other than a standard working pattern. With two children under five at the time, I was concerned about the impact on them of having both parents working full‐time and was unwilling to take on a job that would be detrimental to our family life.
Did you make use of any of the CIPD resources to help you regain employment? If yes, which ones? Did they help you get back into the workplace?
I maintained my CIPD membership during my career break – the reduced rate for members on a career break was helpful – so I was able to access the resources on the CIPD website and People Management magazine. These helped me to keep my knowledge up to date and prepare for interviews.
I also volunteered with my local CIPD branch and attended local events.
How do you think potential employers reacted towards your career break? Any negative impact?
I wasn’t aware of any negative reactions from employers due to my career break. I was shortlisted for every job I applied for, and was a reserve candidate for several roles before being successful.
However, my priorities changed since having children and I was being very selective in the organisations I applied to ‐ only applying for roles that were part‐time or with the flexibility to support a good work‐life balance.
How did you explain your career break on your CV/during the interview?
I was very matter‐of‐fact and explained that I had taken a career break in order to care for my young children – then moved on to talking about how I had maintained my CPD during the break and what I could bring to the role.
What impact did your time out of work have on your confidence? How did you overcome this?
Taking time out of paid work undoubtedly had an impact on my confidence and it took a while to adjust. Initially I adopted the mantra ‘fake it till you make it’, and with time and receiving positive feedback from those around me, my confidence has grown. I’ve been fortunate to have supportive managers who have believed in me and that has helped enormously in developing my confidence.
I have also made a point of taking every development opportunity available to me, whether that is formal training, learning from colleagues or taking on new challenges, so that I feel I am continuously learning.
Last year I successfully upgraded to Chartered CIPD membership, which was also a great confidence boost.
Did you do any Continuous Professional Development during your time out of work? If so, do you think this had a positive impact in your ability to return to employment?
I definitely think being able to demonstrate CPD had a positive impact on my ability to return to employment. I kept my knowledge of employment law and people management issues up to date through using CIPD resources and attending local events run by CIPD, solicitors and other organisations.
I also volunteered in various capacities with my local CIPD branch – and continue to do so. As well as enabling me to learn new skills and meet other HR professionals, this also gave me recent experience of many transferable skills that I was able to include on my CV and refer to in interviews.
What are your top five tips for other people in your position to ensure a smooth transition back into the workplace?
- Take time to think about what you want from work and how you want work to fit in with the rest of your life. This is an opportunity to try something different. How do you work best? What do you value? Keep that in mind when applying for jobs and take the time to find a role and organisation that is the right fit for you.
- Keep your continuous professional development up to date – CIPD resources are great for this. Reduced membership fees are available for CIPD members on a career break for one year or more.
- Make use of the transferable skills you have developed during your career break, either formally through volunteering or study, or informally through time spent in a caring role.
- Time management and communication skills are vital for most HR roles.
- Consider finding a mentor to help you prepare for the return to work. The CIPD mentoring scheme, Steps Ahead, may be able to help.
- Do whatever it takes for you to feel confident about returning to work – a haircut and some new work clothes can make a big difference. Be prepared to ‘fake it till you make it’.
This Chartered Fellow used a career break to assess her personal goals and returned to work refreshed and energised after living overseas
This Chartered Member describes the challenges of finding a suitable role