Written by: Marcus Adams
Getting back into the workplace can be tough; I remember the interview vividly. There were two of them. She was wearing a red power ensemble and flashy earrings; he was wearing an immaculate navy blue Armani suit. I was trying to imagine them naked to calm my nerves, but it was no help: they’d scented blood.
“Well, we are very impressed with your CV so far, but we’d like to talk to you about this gap in your employment dates.” She tapped a gold pen on the desk and looked over her glasses. “Any particular reason? Were you away travelling? Perhaps doing voluntary work?” I had to come clean and tell the horrific truth. I’d been on maternity leave!
“You are aware that since you’ve been away, the industry has changed very much. Are you up to date with the latest mergers? Are you familiar with the new versions of the software?”
Of course I wasn’t, and the interview concluded promptly. I didn’t get the job. Part of me was glad though: I wanted to stay at home and raise my daughter – and I was already racked with guilt for leaving her alone with the babysitter to attend the interview, let alone leave her all day to go to work.
Making the decision
This is a familiar story for millions of mothers – making a return to work after raising kids can be an enormous challenge as it has both emotional and practical implications. Will you be there to watch your little one cut their first tooth or take the first steps? Will you still be employable after leaving the workplace for so long?
Even a couple of years out can knock you many rungs down the career ladder, and you could return back to find yourself on a lower salary, reporting to somebody who was formally your junior. And in a worst-case scenario, you could become unemployable. But don’t fear, there are plenty of things you can do to stay employable during your employment gap – it just requires a bit of forward planning and motivation!
Keep up to date
Firstly, technology moves fast so it’s vital you keep your skills up to date, especially if you work in computing, banking, law, and financial planning. Taken an online learning course, enrol at a local college, take a refresher course, subscribe to industry magazines. Mention these on your CV, and you’ll start to look more attractive.
Keep your work record fresh by keeping a toe in. And let’s not forget the extra cash you will earn.
Keep it fresh
Stop your CV getting stale, and keep it bang up-to-date with the new skills you have acquired during your time away.
Think strategically here. A challenging volunteer job, related to your field of work, could help you in your long-term goal.
Keep it professional
Most professions have associations, so get involved. Attend meetings, write for the newsletter, act as a goodwill ambassador, and attend conferences.
Maintain your network
It’s a cliche, but it’s who you know, not what you know. Keep in touch with professional contacts – a perfect way to do this is via LinkedIn. Maintain relationships with those who remember your talents, and if need be, ask them to write a testimonial for your CV.
Practice your interview skills
If you have a gap in your employment record, chances are, you’re going to be grilled like a slice of cheese on toast. Learn about the company, and the role, prepare to answer questions which relate to your experiences, and most importantly, be ready to talk about what you’ve done to make yourself employable during your time out…which should hopefully involve a few of the points outlined above.
Now go take your suit to the dry cleaners and polish your shoes – there’s lots of work to be done, and that’s before you’ve even started back on your first day. Good luck!