This Chartered Fellow made the big decision to move their family to the US when their partner was given the opportunity to spend 18 months at Harvard University on secondment. They spent 16 months out of work and were actively seeking employment for 2-3 months.

What were the main hurdles you faced when seeking employment?

Honestly – not many. I had made an effort to stay ‘engaged’ and therefore did not feel disconnected from working life. Because we were overseas there were some logistical difficulties in terms of attending interviews etc but these were surmountable. The role I am in now, I was interviewed via Skype.

I did feel a loss of confidence and ‘currency’ from not being in the working environment for some time – a sense of being out of the zone. But that quickly returned!

I think having taken mat leave twice helped because I know from personal experience that it’s absolutely possible to come back.

Did you make use of any of the CIPD resources to help you regain employment? If yes, which ones? Did they help you get back into the workplace?

No, but reading PM and Work helped to refresh my knowledge around current trends and issues.

How do you think potential employers reacted towards your career break? Any negative impact?

Honestly – none at all. In fact I think many (rightly) viewed it as a positive because I was refreshed and energised, and had used my time away wisely and productively.

How did you explain your career break on your CV/during the interview?

I was totally honest – explained that we had taken the decision as a family to have the wonderful experience of living overseas for a while when the opportunity presented itself. I described how I had personally used the break to take stock, recharge, and explore areas of personal interest (particularly gender and organisational behaviour).

What impact did your time out of work have on your confidence? How did you overcome this?

My confidence was impacted – but not unmanageably so. I think the important thing for me was to hold on to the knowledge that I am great at my job, and my career break didn’t change that, it actually enhanced it.

Just getting back out there, even though it feels uncomfortable at first, is the best remedy.

Did you do any Continuing Professional Development (CPD) during your time out of work? If so, do you think this had a positive impact on your ability to return to employment?

Not formally, but yes – I attended workshops, lectures and conferences whilst away. I don’t think this impacted by employability, but it definitely gave me a clearer sense of my own personal values, goals and objectives.

What are your top five tips for other people in your position to ensure a smooth transition back into the workplace?

  1. Be clear at the outset what you want to achieve from your break – this is important so that you are able to know what ‘success’ will look and feel like. It doesn’t have to be work related at all!

  2. Keep in contact with colleagues and friends who are relevant to your career – let them know what you are up to, and continue to support them in whatever way you can.

  3. Learn to ‘tune out’ those people who are giving you unhelpful messages – constructive feedback and challenge is fine, negativity and pessimism is not. Remove those influences from your world if at all possible.

  4. Think carefully and deeply about what you want on your return – and take steps to make that achievable (reading, professional development, keeping up to date with changes etc). Consider coaching to help you shape your goals and to enable you to develop a plan for their achievement.

  5. Be openā€minded about the mechanics of returning, but not to the point that you sell yourself short. I strongly believe that taking a break enhances skills, not the other way around – you should not feel compelled to accept a role that is beneath you simply as a route back in.

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