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A long absence out of the workplace, for whatever reason, doesn’t mean opportunities aren’t still available to you.

If you are looking to return to work then it’s best to prepare yourself for what’s to come. Here are a few pointers to get you started;

1 Just because you have been away for a while doesn’t necessarily mean that you haven’t gained new skills that you
could bring to the arena, such as exceptional time management, organisational or negotiating skills. Parts of our every day lives are transferable. Make a list of the skills you already have, identify your strengths and the qualities you have to offer. Have you taken any training or development courses that would enhance your employability? Ask people who are close to you what they think your skills are, they might just see things from a different perspective.

2 Once you have identified your skills, consider them as your areas of strength. These strengths can then be communicated to potential employers increasing your opportunities.

3 Once you have worked out your strengths, be honest with yourself and consider areas which may be weaker, such as your available time to work due to family arrangements or your computer skills. Some areas you will be able to improve with better organisation and others by brushing up your skills through training.

4 Researching companies who may have employment openings can help you look at how you can bridge the gap in experience they are searching for.

5 Be realistic in what you will be able to bring to the table.
Distance and working hours should be factored in; you don’t want other areas of your life to suffer at the expense of a new job. Work out what it is you want, what would be right for YOU and set yourself targets to achieve it.

6 Do you feel ready to create your own action plan? Now is the time to do it. Be realistic and take the steps to achieve it, both short and mid term.

7 If you have been out of the work environment for a while it will take some adapting to get back into the swing of the ‘being employed’ routine. Be prepared to make changes and get used to working within set time-frames.

8 Look to your local network, who could help you get back into work? Look in your local area for networking groups that may be able to point you in the right direction. Building up your contact list can be a valuable asset for you.

9 Get to work on your CV and don’t shy away from the skills you have developed. Be confident in your approach to how you portray yourself. Draft a covering letter, one that you can adapt to each company you are going to contact.

10 Start actively looking for  bkpositions. Register with recruitment agencies and don’t be afraid to send your CV and covering letter out to as many places as are relevant to you.  Make a note of questions you would like answered from your potential employer, such as flexible working, childcare facilities, training and development opportunities or progression potential. If you are invited for an interview, make sure you have prepared and researched the company. The more you research, the more you will know whether it is the right company for you to work for.
Where would you like to be in your professional career in five years? What do you need to do to get there? If nothing was standing in your way, what would your professional life look like?

Be positive in your approach to returning to work. Start with small steps in your plan, increasing the impact of your achievements as your confidence rises. Make sure you get support from the people close to you, as your decisions will also impact them. Don’t underestimate your ability to fit back into the workplace, you are sure to have a lot to offer.

For the business owner: recruiting and retaining women returning to work

There is a whole skill set out there waiting to make an impact in the work place. Forward thinking companies can easily tap into this resource by recruiting women who, for whatever reason, have taken a break from employment. If a woman takes a career break to raise a family, this doesn’t mean that her ability to be an asset to a company is diminished; it just means that employers need to look at the whole recruitment process in a totally different way.

Pros to recruiting women returning to work

  • There is a range of experience that employers can tap into to bridge skill gaps
  • Part-time vacancies can be filled and full-time vacancies can be shared, widening the skill set
  • Suitable working terms will encourage staff retention
  • Women are natural multi-taskers, an asset to any organisation

Possible cons to recruiting women returning to work

• Investment may be required to update skills or to provide training

• You may need to adopt a more flexible approach to working that currently isn’t in place

Does your company currently have a policy in place for women returning to work? This may comprise flexible working, job share or childcare provisions and it may require you to either create or update a suitable policy.

An empowered organisation is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organisational success.
Stephen Covey


It isn’t only large corporations who are able to assist with childcare facilities. Smaller companies can partner up to offer nursery places or partner with an after-hours school club. By removing this obstacle you are freeing up further employee growth potential.

Parental/Care Givers Leave

Rather like ‘duvet days’, you can implement flexible arrangements when leave of absence is required. If employees are aware of these provisions, not only will you maintain a more productive work culture, you will also encourage employee loyalty.

Training and Development

Ensure you have a comprehensive induction program that incorporates both company culture specifics, confidence building and skills upgrading. Once you have inducted your new recruits, you can implement a growth and development plan for them that will further impact positively on your company’s productivity. Be considerate when organising training, workshops or team meetings, avoiding the times that are likely to cause an issue for employees with family responsibilities; such as early mornings and late afternoon..

Progression Planning

Implementing a progression plan for employees, irrespective of the hours they work, will help you maintain skill sets and have a longer-term positive income on your bottom line. Ensure you have clear guidelines in place that don’t discriminate against flexible or part-time workers. You could potentially lose holders of intellectual assets to your competitors.

Maternity Policy

Is there a way you could increase the time given for maternity leave to encourage current employees to return? Perhaps by maintaining their grade even if they opt for a reduced working schedule. You have already invested so much in these employees that it would cost a lot more to replace them in the long run. When on maternity leave, what provisions are made to maintain contact? Helping your employees to still feel part of your company will help prevent a loss of confidence, which in turn affects their decision making process in relation to returning to work. It’s one thing to create these policies, it’s another to ensure they are maintained. ‘Returning to work’ policies don’t have to be restricted to women returning after maternity leave. Offer the same opportunities to all staff who may have taken a leave of absence. This way you are also maintaining an ‘open to all’ opportunity and will not divide people who have non-maternity needs.

New Recruits

Creating specific job descriptions and setting expectations from new employees who are returning to work after an absence, should not only reflect your company’s business needs but also means staff will be aware what is expected of them. With new recruits the induction process will be slightly different but there is definitely room for cross over.

Re-introducing an employee to the work place can be done in stages. Short spells of returning to work with a specialised induction programme will make the return transition all the more effective. The more you can accommodate the needs of your employees, the more you can build a business that is both productive and efficient.

Hilary Steel

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