This article was written by Eleanor Langford
Sometimes, you just need a break. It’s not uncommon for graduates, and even those many years into their career, to take time off from work to travel the world or work abroad. The exciting arrival of a baby, also, leads many new parents to ditch the office for the role of full-time parent. Finding a new career after a break can be daunting and confusing though – navigating all those job applications is hard enough without a glaring gap on your CV that you find yourself justifying at every interview. But don’t fear – you’re more prepared to handle it than you might think; just a few simple steps and the right mindset will have you starting a new career in no time. Here are my top tips…
Be patient with yourself
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Your last interview feels like a million years ago and you can’t remember the last cover letter you wrote. You’re out of practice but that’s okay. The important thing is not to let yourself feel down if you don’t succeed right away, and never take it personally if you’re not getting interviews or if you haven’t been hired. It’s no reflection on your ability to work in your chosen career. Prepare yourself for rejection at first, and keep the faith that hard work will pay off eventually. Treat your initial job hunt as a learning curve, and ask for feedback at every opportunity. Don’t be afraid to chase up a recruiter for feedback even if you weren’t shortlisted for interview, you might just get some valuable advice on your application!
Be upfront with employers
Let’s be honest - there’s a gap in your employment history. They can see it, you now about it, so don’t try and cover it up. No amount of CV wizardry will hide the fact that you were out of work and even though your instinct may be to try and hide it, that’s the wrong move because it sort of suggests that your time off makes you less employable. What you want to do is prove the opposite. Reflect on what you learnt in your time off, how it sets you apart from other candidates and tell employers all about it. When your interviewer asks you about your break, big up your skills. Took time off to have a baby? Talk about how parenthood has taught you responsibility and patience. Needed time to focus on your health? Tell them how you overcame those challenges in returning to work. Spent a year backpacking around South America? Discuss how travelling taught you confidence and communication. Whatever the reason for your break, you can find a way of selling it in an interview rather than hiding it way.
Whilst it can be tempting to spend your days refreshing your inbox or sitting by the phone, it’s far better to keep yourself occupied. Use those free hours to research the career you’re interested in and get prepared. Don’t know what career you want yet? That’s fine too. Make sure you’re using your days researching roles and careers that interest you. Go Think Big has loads of articles to get you prepped whilst you’re finding a new career with everything from cover letter advice to interview tips. You’ll feel a lot better once you know your stuff. When you’re not thinking about jobs, also make sure you’re using your time wisely. Employers don’t want to hear that you’ve spent your week watching Netflix on the sofa. Rediscover an old hobby, start jogging or take an online course – there are so many money-savvy ways you can fill your time and sound super interesting when talking to an employer.
Reach out to others
Whilst it may feel like you’re in this alone, you really aren’t. There are so many people out there who are in the same boat as you. Ask your friends, your mum, your neighbour – either they’ll have been through it themselves, or they’ll know somebody who has. Social media is also your friend here, take a look through Facebook and Twitter to see what your peers are up to or contact potential employers for work experience or advice on how best to get a response when you apply. For Alice, a chance encounter on Twitter changed her outlook on job hunting. “I followed a girl on Twitter who had just come back from working abroad like I had, so I messaged her and we got to talking. Hearing that I wasn’t the only one struggling to get a job was a huge comfort” she said. If you’re struggling to find a career that interests you then it can also be a good idea to reach out to friends, acquaintances and people you admire to ask them about what they do. Find people with a career you like and drop them a polite email asking to pick their brains, don’t be afraid to suggest a chat over coffee if you’re in the same city. Most people would be flattered by your consideration and give you some valuable insight. Who knows, you might even get a few jobs leads in the process…
Think about what you learnt
It sounds a little cliché, but just because you stopped working doesn’t mean you stopped growing. Your time off, whether it was spent travelling, volunteering or looking after a newborn, has taught you a lot whether you realise it or not. When finding a new career, it’s important to reflect on why you took time off and what that means for your future. What were you doing with your time? What hobbies did you enjoy? What did you miss the most about having a career? And, most importantly, what skills did you gain? The answer to these questions may impact the route you take back into work. Don’t worry, though, if you feel like you didn’t learn a thing in your time off. Perseverance, motivation, confidence, adaptability – these are all great skills that you’re already showing just by starting a new career! Grace spent some time volunteering for a charity after Uni instead of applying for roles right away, which she says helped her find a new career. “I have gained experience in a sector that I had never considered as a career path for me” she said. ” I am now considering a career in the charitable sector when back from travelling.”
Think outside the box
You’ve trawled through the job sites, supercharged your CV and done your homework, but the offers still aren’t pouring in? That’s okay. Finding a new career isn’t a science, and sometimes things don’t work out straight away. If you’re getting stuck in a rut, however, it may be time to get creative and think outside the box. Go to networking events for industries you never even considered. Maybe technology or law really is the career for you? Go Think Big offers some exciting skill days in a range of different sectors, so sign up for something outside your comfort zone? Who knows, the next event you go to might just be the first step in finding a new career. Everyone suggests volunteering as a route back to work, but why not try something a little bit different? Websites like Do It post thousands of opportunities from sighted guides to marketing assistants and even a Lego volunteer (yes, this really was an opportunity that was posted). Try something a little different and, who knows, it might be the career for you. Take inspiration from the man who bought a billboard to get a job, or perhaps the guy who stood at a train station handing out CVs or the crazy ways Buzzfeed staff got hired.
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