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It can be tough getting back into the swing of things after taking an unexpected career break.

There are a variety of reasons why people take a career gap. Maybe you were out of work for a while due to  family commitments or to take care of your own health. Your career break can also be because your industry had just gone through a massive change and you had to take some time to reassess your skills and what you want to do next.

Regardless of any particular reason, it's important not to beat yourself up about it - everyone needs some time off once in a while! And of course, a break doesn't mean that you are for sure not going back to work again.

A career gap is unlikely to ruin or even hurt your career if you’re strategic about it.

If you’re diligent enough to use your time productively to stay updated on the latest skill sets of your desired field, you'll certainly not be as disadvantaged as you think you would be. From time to time, you could also do some online job search and identify certain marketable skills that are high in demand and take an online course on it.

Another way that you can continue to keep up is to take up freelance project work during your break. While it sounds like a full-time job on its own, you are your own boss and you get to choose what type of projects you want to work on, how much time you want to spend on it and earn an income while doing so.

So, how can you restart your career and get back to the workforce? We gather some of the effective tips on how to get back to work after a long break to guide you and get you started.

returning to work after a long absence
returning to work after a long absence

1. explain the gap in employment in your CV

One of the most daunting yet important things to do is to explain your employment gap in your resume.

It is important that you keep your CV up to date. If you’ve only been on a career break for less than 6 months, you may want to omit that information in your CV. But if you’ve been out of the workforce for more than 6 months, then it’s a good idea to explain what you’ve been busy with during that time.

However, you shouldn’t be too worried that taking a career gap might hinder your job application or interview for your new job, even if you had taken a career break that is longer than six months. Just be clear about how you’ve spent your time productively during the career break to demonstrate your willingness to learn and keep busy.

If you had done your due diligence to upskill yourself by picking up specific skills during this period, your hiring manager will be impressed with your initiative and will be compelled to consider you more favourably because of your positive attitude.

Hence, you should highlight the important skills that you’ve learnt during the career gap in your CV. You might have attended some online courses to pick up new skills, or become better at multitasking and communicating ever since you became a new parent. The most important thing you should note is to make sure that you only share what is relevant to your future employer. Don’t overshare in your CV, always leave the details for your interview.

2. join career coaching consultancies

There are many career consultancies that help and support job seekers secure a job. Organisations such as NTUC Learning Hub provide an enriching environment to match job seekers with employers. They also offer webinars with hiring companies, upskilling programmes and speed interviews to increase your chances of securing a job.

Government organisations also offer learning credits as well as free career coaching and job search services to citizens. However, if you wish to receive premium and dedicated career coaching services, you can register as a participant with Randstad Risesmart. Organisations like Risesmart offer comprehensive career coaching programmes to support professionals to return to work.

If you don’t wish to get the help from career coaches just yet, you can consider reviving your connections with your ex-colleagues or former managers to ask for mentorship opportunities or job search help.

3. be prepared to have a lower job title and salary

If you were a manager before you took a career break two years ago, picking up the work momentum from where you left off isn’t going to be as easy as getting on a bicycle. The reason is because the world of work has changed significantly. Over the past two years, many companies have fast-tracked their digital transformation plans or restructured the business.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have job opportunities at all. However, you may need to be prepared to settle for a lower job title and salary. Instead of beating yourself up over it, take this as a good opportunity to ease yourself back to the workforce.

A higher job title and salary typically means more work responsibilities. And after being absent for a couple of years, the last thing you want is to work on projects or with technology that you are unfamiliar with.

4. give contracting jobs a try 

If you're finding it difficult to get back into full-time employment, why not consider contracting jobs or project-based work? 

contracting jobs are perfect for those returning to work
contracting jobs are perfect for those returning to work

Contracting jobs give you the opportunity to work on different projects which can help refresh your skills and knowledge that might have become rusty while you were on a career break. In the process of refreshing your skills, you may also gain new ones that you can transfer to your next full-time job.

Compared to full-time jobs where your list of to-dos may never seem to end, project-based contract work also tends to have fixed deliverables and outputs, which makes them more manageable. It is also easier for you to negotiate for shorter working hours, especially if you’re a parent who needs more time to care for your newborn or kids.

Contracting jobs are also ideal for people who are looking to test the waters before diving back into full-time work. It can be a great way to gauge if you would need more time to adjust or reconfigure your work-life balance.

This will help ease you back into the routine of working and lessen the chances of you feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Contracting jobs are therefore ideal for those who want to return to work after their career break.

rejoin the workforce today

Throwing yourself back to work after taking a career break can feel very disorienting for most. However, that should not deter you from earning an income.

Many employers are also hiring professional contractors to retain some level of agility and flexibility in their workforce budgets, so there are plenty of opportunities for you to choose from. Furthermore, if you feel that you’re still not ready to go back to work full-time after your contracting stint, you can always choose to take on another contract role to further deepen your skills - or take an extended break.

If you’re considering returning to work, there’s no better time to do it than now. We hope that this article has provided you with the career advice you need for you to restart your new career. Check out the contracting jobs that we have on offer now or connect with one of our specialised contracting recruiters today.

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