This Chartered Member decided to take extended maternity leave and was out of work for 18 months. They started their own consultancy business before having a change of direction and looking for a part time role. They spent 9 months seeking employment.

What were the main hurdles you faced when seeking employment?

After taking 9 months maternity leave then resigning from my role, I decided set-up my own consultancy business being self-employed, as this had always been an ambition of mine, however, I quickly realised I missed the interaction with my colleagues and began seeking employment in an organisation. I felt a part time role would suit me and my family best. The lack of part time HR roles was the main hurdle for me. When occasionally I found one, they would usually be relatively junior. I suspected I must have appeared over qualified for those roles, however, I rarely received feedback and so can’t say for certain.

After a few months of a frustrating search for a more flexible solution I decided to look for a full time role. I hoped I could find a suitable role and work my way up, show what I was capable of. I attended a few interviews and despite of getting though different stages of selection process I did not feel the roles or in fact companies I interviewed for were suitable for me. Lots of interviews were centred on employee relations, disciplinary hearings and reactive performance management.

I believe in slightly different approach to people management, a people centred approach. I withdrew from the process.

I was lucky enough that I saw a job advertised for a People and Training Manager on a part time basis. I applied and never looked back. This September I celebrated my two years at the firm.

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?

I looked at the jobs on the People Management website regularly, but the posts there were above my skill set. I attended CIPD Manchester networking events. I was not aware back then about the career support available via CIPD. I have done MyCPD map to identify gaps and opportunities in my approach to HR.

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

I did not feel there was a negative reaction. I feel I had a good solid reason for not being at work and did not receive any comments to suggest this was an issue.

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

I resigned following my maternity leave to initially set up my own consultancy business. I tried it but quickly realised that working from home was not for me. I missed the contact with people. My CV did not necessarily have a break as I was self‐employed following my permanent role before I went off.

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

It had a huge impact! Not only adjusting to the new lifestyle with two young children which was challenging in itself, but also I was not part of a ‘winning team’ any more. My previous role was relatively senior, I felt I could make an impact and I was part of something bigger. All of the sudden I felt useless and empty. I needed stimulation and I needed to feel useful. I loved working before and I missed it. My consultancy business wasn’t working out and I wasn’t successful applying for new roles. I felt like a failure. Luckily I have a very supportive husband who encouraged me and always listened. He did not allow me to give up and helped me to get through the difficult moments.

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?

Yes. I attended a number of CIPD events organised by Manchester branch and employment law updates run by local lawyers. I did not feel it helped me significantly. After each event I felt even less able to compete on the job market. I compared myself with others and although I felt this was a wrong thing to do, I could not stop myself from feeling less valuable.

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

  1. Do not look for the specific role / specific money / location etc. look for the company and values you want to be part of.

  2. Once you find the business you like, send your application (including cover letter) directly.

  3. Open up to networking, embrace it and make connections (I am still not really good at it!) There are plenty events to get involved with – lots of them for free.

  4. Big companies have a lot of presence on job boards – try to look beyond that. There are a lot of small and medium businesses that although not always visible, have a lot on offer.

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