Career break from IT for 11 years

I have been a full-time mum for 11 years. I was in IT field working as a software developer for four years in a multinational company. As my son is now in secondary school, I am ready to regain my IT career, but I am not sure how to prepare my cv, specifically how to explain the career gap. I do update my knowledge and self study online with regard to technical skillls, but can’t afford to pay for courses and certification. Any advice is much appreciated.

Part-time business woman at work


This is a very common question. What an exciting time for you. You have a distinct advantage that your experience is an area that has a much-talked-about skills shortage so you may find that you are given quite serious attention when you ‘go back onto the market’ as it were. Stack overflow conducts a global survey of developers every year  and if you have not seen it already it might be worth having a look at to get a feel for the market.

In terms of your CV, I feel that honesty is the best policy. Be transparent, explain the transferable soft skills that you have gained through becoming a parent – negotiation, problem solving, organising etc. I bet you have loads.

  • In your exec summary it may be worth highlighting that you are returning to work after a career break
  • In a ‘Key Skills’ section, list the language(s) you can program in
  • If you contribute to open sources repositories, GitHub or stack overflow or slack channels, or maybe have an online portfolio/website that showcase your skills, then it would be worth highlighting these, or putting links in on your CV
  • Highlight your self-directed learning in a Qualifications & Training section
  • Don’t forget LinkedIn too – headhunters search on this, so make it clear that you are looking for work and want to be contacted.

Software languages rapidly evolve so you might not get the return on investment for the money spent on gaining expensive qualifications when the ability to program is what employers are looking for. As a part of a selection process, you might find yourself doing a coding assessment, so in my experience they are more interested in you being able to do the job than qualifications (indeed, according to the Stack Overflow survey, 69.1% of the 40k developers surveyed were self-taught!).

Have you thought about contacting your former employer? There may be “Returnships” available. These are essentially programmes that some of the larger employers offer to encourage people who have been on career breaks back into work. Employers typically offer a structured programme around polishing business skills, confidence etc. and prepare you for corporate life again before moving you into a job. Might be worth investigating.

On the other hand, is it a traditional full-time permanent job that you want? Developers are in high demand as contractors or associates or on various freelancing sites that organisations turn to when they need distinct pieces of work delivered. Please do your research on these companies before signing up to anything. One or two have received some negative press recently. I think the best advice I have heard is not to rely on one and instead have a presence on a couple to mitigate your business risk. If you do chose to go down this route there is plenty of information online to help.

I hope you get sorted. Good luck! You know where we are if you have any further questions.

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