Around 90,000 people in the UK take some kind of career break every year, whether to raise a family, travel the world or look after an aging relative. Though these experiences teach us a lot about our values and our priorities, getting back into work can be intimidating. On this page you’ll find helpful tips and advice on how to prepare for a career break, what to do during it to maintain your skills and how to manage your return to the world of work.

Before you begin your career break 

Making a plan to stay in touch 

When you’re preparing to take a career break, it’s a good idea to think about what you might want to do when you return to work and anything you need to do to achieve that goal. For example, you should think about how you’ll maintain your skills and keep up to date with any developments in the profession.  

Decide whether you want a total break from the profession or if you’d like to keep on top of industry trends and developments – in the second instance, have a look at any relevant newsletters or social media feeds you could sign up to. Take some time to think about how you’ll continue your professional development and any key contacts in your network who can help keep you informed. 

Record all your experiences 

During your career break it’s likely that you’ll be having new experiences and learning new skills. Some of these may be hard to identify before you start, but it can be helpful to give it some thought so you can plan how to keep a record of them to boost your employability when you decide to return to work. 

Before you start your break, make sure to also update your CV and LinkedIn profiles with all your past experience and achievements, so you don’t forget it all!  

During your career break

While on your career break there are things you can do to keep yourself up to date with developments in the people profession and ensure your skills stay relevant

What CPD can mean
for you

As the professional body leading and supporting the people profession, we have a strong interest in your professional growth. The credibility of the people profession is based on the commitment of individual members to continuing self-improvement.  
Read how our CPD policy ensures our members maintain their professional knowledge and competence. 

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Keep an eye on the latest job opportunties to see what employers are looking for

Keep your skills up to date during your career break with a CIPD learning course

When you’re ready to return to work 

When you feel it’s time to get back to work, there are several things you can do to prepare yourself and make the transition as smooth as possible. 

Getting ready for your return to work

You’ve decided it’s time to get back into the world of work, but first it might be helpful to consider what your career break experience has taught you about yourself and the type of work you really want to do. It might be tempting to start applying for roles in a panic or send out as many CVs as you can. However, you can save a lot of time (and energy) by understanding the answers to these questions beforehand.  

Once you're sure about the career and sector you'd like to return to, it's time to do your research. Make sure you're aware of both the internal environment (if you're returning to a previous employer) and the external environment (the external factors or market trends affecting your industry). 

Getting this information doesn't have to be a big job. Blogs, social media and newsletters can provide you with a trickle of information to read at your leisure. 

There's also the option to update your skills by studying a CIPD learning course or qualification and use the Career hub - a member-only CIPD resource which provides information on prepping for interviews, and much more. 

Articulating the value of your experience

People generally understand the personal gains that can come from taking a break from employment, but often undervalue the professional gains. There are plenty of skills that you'll have developed which are valuable to employers. 

If you've been caring for young children or elderly relatives, there's no doubt that you'll have developed a resilience in coping with new challenges, not to mention communication skills and problem-solving skills. If you've been travelling, you may have developed an understanding of different cultures or a more well-rounded world view. Whatever the experience, you'll return from it a different person with a fresh outlook. 

You may feel apprehensive in explaining gaps in employment history. If so, there are two main ways to combat this. Firstly, you can opt for a functional CV format as opposed to a chronological format. This will help you to highlight the skills and experience you want to put forward. It's also a good idea to be upfront about the experience and use it as a leverage point. Treat your career break as a role in itself, with clear dates and, if possible, a CAR (challenge-action-result) approach to explaining what you've achieved. 

Getting back to work

Whether you're returning to work following maternity, parental or carers’ leave, redundancy, sickness or a voluntary career break, it can take time to adjust back to working We've put together resources to make the transition back to work easier, from research, guides, podcasts and tools to employment law information, financial assistance and articles. Select from the sections below to access the relevant resources:

Returning to work: Members’ real-life career break experiences

woman working on laptop
Case study
Case study: returning to work after a career break

This Chartered Fellow used a career break to assess her personal goals and returned to work refreshed and energised after living overseas

woman working on computer
Case study
Case study: returning to work after maternity and a period of self-employment

This Chartered Member describes the challenges of finding a suitable role

Woman working on laptop
Case study
Case study: returning to work after extended maternity

This Chartered Member explains how maintaining CPD positively impacted her return to work

Case study
Case study: returning to work after maternity

This case study emphasises the importance of a strong professional network in rebuilding confidence when returning to work

Returning to work: Helpful resources

Maternity, paternity and adoption rights

Introduces maternity and paternity rights, shared parental leave, and adoption rights in the UK

For Members
Managing a return to work after long-term absence: Guidance for people professionals

Practical guidance to effectively oversee and support an employee’s return to work after long-term sickness absence

For Members
Bitesize research
Corporate volunteering – giving back and gaining new talent

Research reveals that allowing employees to give back can give a company the edge when attempting to attract and retain the next generation

For Members
Career pathing: the new path forward

A series of podcasts from CIPD and CEB which discuss the different types of career pathways