Working your way back into a career

Returning to work after a break can be daunting. Extended time off to raise a family, travel, or deal with redundancy may leave you feeling that you’re not up to speed with professional developments, but that doesn’t mean you’re at a permanent disadvantage.

Careers coach Kate Southam suggests volunteering, re-training and networking as great ways to update your experience, and most importantly, boost your confidence.

Here’s Kate plan of action for making yourself more employable…

Restore your confidence

“Remind yourself how valuable you are,” says Kate. “As well as skills from your previous jobs, you’ll have gained more by raising children or possibly helping a spouse with their business.”

Make a list of all your new skills, she suggests, such as being well organised or a fast learner, and think about how you might sell them in to an employer.

Volunteer work is a great way to connect with people as part of a team, and gain confidence in the working world — it also looks great on your resume.

In a 2023 survey from Seek, 95% of employers said that volunteering was a credible way of gaining real-world experience. You can also visit SEEK’s for opportunities in your area.

Unpaid internships can also be valuable in gaining on-the-job experience but, read Fair Work’s guide to internships first to make sure you’re getting a fair deal.

Be ready

Consider taking classes to ensure your skills are up-to-date. Accredited TAFE courses cover everything from entry-level certificates through to advanced diplomas, with certain courses funded by the government.

If the costs or time involved with training are a barrier, Kate suggests enlisting the help of friends or family to get your skills up to scratch.

Impressions count

“Dress as you would if you were going out to work, especially if you plan to hand out CVs or enquire about work opportunities in person,” says Kate. “Make employers want to hire you on the spot.”

Craft a strong CV and research the companies you’re interested in, tailoring your resume to fit the jobs on offer. Keep it tight — most employers prefer a snappy one-pager to a detailed history of every job you’ve had since high school.

“Identify referees in advance and make sure they’re relevant and know your work experience,” advises Kate.

Finding work

Networking means using all available contacts and putting the word out there that you’re looking for a job. Contact previous workplaces to find out if any new opportunities might be coming up, and keep an eye out for job listings online and in your local paper.

“Temping’s a great way to ease back to work and try out different workplaces to see what will suit you, as well as giving you a good idea of the best hours that work for you and your family circumstances,” says Kate. “Register with a few reputable agencies and stay in touch!”

Upskill to excel with a postgraduate degree at The University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ). With 220+ specialisations, flexible learning, world-class research, and resources, UniSQ empowers individuals for success in their fields.

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