How to Handle the End of a Career Break | Inspire to Freedom

How to Handle the End of a Career Break

August 17, 2015 Jonny Lilley



Have you had a career break? Thinking of taking one but worried about how you’d get back into work?

We take career breaks for a variety of reasons. This could be to have a family, to re-train, to deal with health problems, to travel or even to write a book! Whatever the reason, the time will come when you’re ready to re-enter the workplace and get back to your career.

So how can you handle this? Many of us worry that we won’t be able to pick up where we left off. In fact, a survey by London Business School showed that 70% of women fear the effect taking a break will have on their success.

But help is at hand! We’ve put together some suggestions on how to effectively handle the end of a career break without sacrificing your success or your peace of mind.

Start planning in plenty of time

Sometimes life gets in the way of being organised! But the earlier you start planning your return to work, the smoother it’s likely to be. There are a lot of things to prepare, including childcare, revising important information, deciding on the best work/life balance, and potentially even finding a new job.

Give yourself time to readjust emotionally

Going back to work is likely to feel like a very big change. You may want to prepare yourself for an uncomfortable emotional readjustment, especially if you are leaving children behind at home. Be kind to yourself and expect it to take some time before being at work feels ‘normal’. It can help to keep a bit of consistency by ensuring your diary still has activities in that relate to what you were doing before. For example, if you’ve been working on a book you might want to set aside some solo library time to write. If you’ve been on maternity leave it can be beneficial to organise a day out with your parent friends and their little ones.

Think carefully about your priorities

During a career break it’s very common to re-evaluate your life and see your priorities in a new way. If you’ve done this, make sure you remember what you’ve learnt when it comes to choosing a new job! Don’t be tempted to jump back into something that’s no longer what you really want, even if it seems like the easier option. Ideally you’ll be able to design a career that fits with your priorities, whether that’s career progression, better finances or more flexible working.

Consider the experience you’ve gained during your break

Many employers will consider a career break as an enriching experience. However you’ve used your time off, it’s likely you’ve overcome new challenges and learnt new things. Before you step back in the workplace, consider how you will add value as an employee. If you’re feeling under-confident in this respect, a tool like strengths finder could help you to zone in on what you’re good at.

Explore different styles of working

There’s no rule that says you have to return to exactly the same kind of career that you had before you left. Depending on how your life has changed during your break, it might not make sense to work in the same way. Might part time or flexible working be better for you? You could even consider becoming freelance or self-employed.


Networking can be an excellent way to jump back into the career pool. Face to face events such as conferences can be a great start, but online networking can be very helpful too. When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile? Getting back in touch with former colleagues and employers to let them know that you’re back in the job market can also be a very sensible move.

Make sure you’re up to date with your industry

Things change and you may find that your industry has moved on while you’ve been on a break. This is especially true if you’ve been out of the workplace for more than a couple of years. You may find it beneficial to set some time aside to read up on new developments in your industry. In some cases you may even want to look into attending relevant courses or workshops to refresh your knowledge and show potential employers how serious you are about returning.

However you decide to rejoin the workplace… stay positive and believe in yourself. We all have amazing strengths and should give our life experiences as much value as our work ones! Good luck with your return to work.

Psst: if you’re on the hunt for something a bit different, you might want to read our thoughts on why working from home can be a fantastic option.

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