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Published on: HR Coaching & Mentoring

5 practical steps to return to your HR career after a career break

Returning to the workforce from a career break is a daunting prospect in any field. But it can be especially daunting in HR when things are constantly changing and evolving.

There are any number of reasons you might have taken time away from your career. Perhaps you took a couple of years off to raise your children, complete some further study, or travel the world.

But now you are ready to get stuck back into your HR career – where do you start?

Let’s look at 5 practical steps you can take to get back into the HR swing.

1: Job-hunting essentials
If you have been out of the workforce for a considerable amount of time, your initial focus should be brushing up on the basics. That means making updates to your CV, practising cover letter writing, and re-familiarising yourself with interview techniques and skills.An active and up to date LinkedIn profile is an absolute must.  Start checking in on LinkedIn regularly – comment on posts, check out where your contacts are, share relevant content.  Getting your profile out there is a critical first step.

If you are nervous about the time gap consider changing it from chronological order to a more functions-based style. This way, your employment gap won’t be the first and most obvious thing in the document. While you don’t want to highlight the obvious break, you don’t have lie about it or try to cover it up – the kind of employer you want to work with will be open-minded and realistic about this sort of thing.

2: Research and re-learn
Researching and getting familiar with new industry practices and techniques is important. The field of HR is constantly changing, and you want to be able to demonstrate to potential employers that you have remained engaged and informed about the industry.

You might benefit from attending some professional development classes or conferences, and these can be added to your CV. You can also find podcasts and other online resources to help you learn from home.

3: Identify your strengths
In addition to brushing up on your technical skills and knowledge, it’s important to consider your strengths.

Even if you were clear on these before you took a break, it will be inevitable that the reason for your career break will have also presented challenges and opportunities to allow you to grow and develop.  Having a family brings life-changing responsibilities.  Travelling the world opens your eyes to new experiences.  Caring for a loved one can be challenging. Taking a break for whatever reason will have given you the opportunity to reflect and grow as a person.  Layer these fresh insights onto your existing skillset, and consider how this now positions you even more strongly for your next role.

What stories can you tell that bring these strengths to life for a potential new employer?

4: Network
The job market is more competitive than ever and employers have a lot of great candidates to choose from. The old adage ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is more relevant than ever.  Finding ways to stand out from the crowd is critical, and a recommendation from a trusted colleague goes a long way to make this happen.

Get in touch with former colleagues and contacts from the HR industry and let them know you are returning to the workforce. Ask them for recommendations. They will be closer to the current job market than you are right now, and will be more likely to hear about opportunities, or have some good, up-to-date advice about the industry.

Do some research about specific companies and what their key projects, goals, and challenges are. This will allow you to tailor and submit quality applications to them directly and/or be clear to recruiters specifically what you are looking for on your return.

5: Be prepared to take an interim role – or flex your hours
Your dream HR job might not pop up immediately after your return to work – and that’s alright! An interim position can help you readjust to the workday routine, and give you space to ensure the hours and role suit you. It can also help with your confidence and give you some more recent experience to add to your CV.

If you are feeling a little nervous about returning to your HR career, then it can help to talk to an impartial expert in the field. Find someone who can help you identify your strongest skills, where you should focus your attention and help build your confidence to tackle the job market with gusto!

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