Getting back to work: practical tips

workingmums.co.uk hosted a webinar this week on how to get back to work after a career break, including cv and interviews tips.

Rejoin, Resource Solutions Webinar

 

Confidence is the major barrier to returning to work after a career break, according to a poll of potential returners taken during a workingmums.co.uk webinar.

The back to work webinar took place on Tuesday and was sponsored by Resource Solutions, which offers support, advice and potential roles to returners through its Rejoin programme.

The webinar was hosted by Gillian Nissim, founder of WM People, the umbrella organisation for workingmums.co.uk, workingdads.co.uk and workingwise.co.uk.

Getting your CV seen and through ATS systems

She introduced Emma Alkirwi, aka the CV Guru, who writes regularly for workingmums.co.uk on the job application process. Emma talked about all the various issues that returners come up against in the application process.

First, she gave advice about how to present your cv to get around Applicant Tracking Systems. She said that both for humans and ATS-led processes it is important to keep a cv simple and clear so it is easy to navigate, with clear segments on employment history listed in chronological order and an acknowledgement of any career gaps – for whatever reason – with a brief explanation and a note that you are ready for full- or part-time opportunities. There is no need to go into detail, but Emma said that applicants should ‘embrace’ their career gap and include any relevant voluntary or freelance work done during the career break.

She added that logos or other flourishes are unnecessary and a cv should be around two to three pages at most with all the information being relevant to the job being applied for.

Applying for jobs in different sectors

The cv should be adapted to each role, mirroring the language used in the job advert, for instance, an HR role might use the term talent management rather than recruitment. Emma said there is no need to write a new cv for different roles or sectors.  The professional profile and key skills are the most important parts to adapt. You should highlight any relevant experience and explain why you are looking to change sector, if that is your plan.

For older applicants, Emma suggested only going back around 20 years in the employment history and ensuring that the cv is kept to three pages or less. If there is earlier experience that is relevant you can list that briefly without going into full details about any responsibilities undertaken.

Cv structure

In terms of structure, Emma said you should start with a professional profile – your “elevator pitch” – which should be six to eight lines summing up your experience and background. After that comes key skills which should match the competencies required for the post, your career summary with key achievements and responsibilities listed for each role and then your education, unless you are currently studying for a qualification that is relevant to the role [which should be mentioned above the career summary]. Emma said the key achievements is an applicants’ chance to stand out by saying what impact you made.

Emma advised sending a cover letter or email as this is an opportunity to tell employers why you want the job, showing that you understand the company’s values and culture.

Networking

Emma also spoke about the importance of using social media to network. Your Linkedin profile should not just be a cut and paste of your cv and can allow you to give a more rounded view of yourself, for instance, you can mention that you are a working mum. You can also use LinkedIn to connect with previous colleagues or contacts and get involved in professional LinkedIn groups. In addition, you can start commenting on people’s posts to show your knowledge and experience if you don’t feel confident enough to post yourself.

Emma said networking generally is always worthwhile because you never know when you are going to meet someone who will help you and word of mouth is still a good way of finding a job.

Interviews

When it comes to interviews she said video and in person interviews are more or less the same except for the technical aspects, such as checking your background and remembering to look into the camera for online interviews. It’s important, she said, to remember that you are also interviewing the prospective employer to see if they are the right fit for you. It shouldn’t be a one-way process. She advised rehearsing competency-based Q & As, giving concrete examples which show how you have demonstrated that skill.

A participant asked about references if you have been out of the workplace for a while. Resource Solutions suggests using character references if past managers are untraceable.

Returner support

Gillian Nissim introduced Serena Pook and Jo Goatcher from Resource Solutions. They spoke about their Rejoin programme, which Jo, a Senior Talent Acquisition Consultant, heads. Serena, Global Head of Talent Acquisition, said Resource Solutions is very inclusive and wants to create a movement through its Rejoin programme.

Jo has herself been a returner and says employers are more willing now than in the past to consider returners. The Rejoin programme is free for members who get a regular magazine with tips and advice, ongoing support, access to an online training hub offering, for instance, interview skills, and get told about viable live roles. The programme partners with organisations which help to get people back into work, such as Route to work which helps people with no previous experience get into the cybersecurity sector.

Kim Dudden took part in the programme and now works for Resource Solutions as  a new content writer, sitting within the Bids team. She had a six-year break to look after her son. She had been in marketing and business development roles before and joined Rejoin last year looking for a part-time role. The only part-time roles she had been able to find before that were in sectors she didn’t have any experience in.  She talked to a senior consultant about her cv and skills and then a role came up in Resource Solutions which suited her skills. Rejoin helped prepare her for the interview – she had not had an interview in 10 years.

Kim started her role in January and really loves it and the switch to the recruitment sector. She has been able to use her commercial knowledge and understanding of dealing with clients. She has also learnt new creative skills. She adds that the whole experience has been very supportive.

Jo said anyone interested in joining the free programme should contact her with their cv at Joanne.Goatcher@resourcesolutions.com or register here and she will have an initial chat with them to understand what they are looking for work wise and working pattern wise. She will then try to match them with suitable jobs with the employers Resource Solutions works with across the UK, several of which are now offering remote roles. Emma advised following Resource Solutions on LinkedIn.

 



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