Tips for returning to work after a career break


Helen Cowan, Executive Coach, gives her top tips for transitioning back to work after a career break.

I recently met a group of talented women, all of whom have incredible CVs demonstrating their enviable academics and illustrious careers in the City.  Talented, motivated, articulate and yet below the radar of employers.

Why?  Because they chose to take an extended career break, almost always to care for a child or other family member.   Often for not that long – three years perhaps – but long enough to fall out of the system.

It doesn’t take long for traditional recruitment firms and employers to see the problems that a career break can throw up and therefore be reluctant to sell in a returner. Some employers however are getting wise to this rich pool of untapped talent –  talent that competitors find hard to access.

If you want to return to work after a career break but finding it tough to get back out there consider the following:

1)      Use your network.  As Carol Fishman Cohen tells us in her brilliant TED talk“How to get back to work after a career break”, as far as your former colleagues are concerned you are frozen in time and therefore still your brilliant professional self.  They don’t know what has gone on in the intervening years.  Reach out to them.  Let everyone know across your network that you are looking to get back out there.  You may very well be surprised at the responses.

2)      Go through a specialist returners recruitment firm.  The recently foundedThe Return Hub was created to connect employers with women who have a Financial Services background.  Dominie Moss, its founder, is passionate about enabling brilliant women to get back into The City.

3)      Work on your personal brand.  Be clear what you will say when asked “Tell me about yourself?” and “what made you decided to return?” and “what is your value now?”.  These opening lines are vital.  Practice your responses endlessly – video them if you can.

4)      Consider an internship.  Around 30 companies in the UK are offering them for returners.  This a way for both you and the company to try each other out for a short defined period.  You will often be joined by other returners in similar circumstances which can be a great networking opportunity.  If a company does not currently offer an internship ask them if they would for you.  This can be a great way of allay fears if they are nervous of taking on a returner – suggest a commercial arrangement that works for you both

5)      Don’t underestimate the pressures from home.  Have an open conversation with your family about what you want from this, the benefits to everyone and the changes that will be required for this to work.


This blog was written by Helen Cowan, Founder of The Tall Wall and Executive Coach for the Return Hub.