Getting back to work after a career gap: Ask the expert

I am currently a stay-at-home mum to a nine month old. I have had a number of roles during my years of employment (in which there are significant gaps). I want to know what is the best route to take regarding employment. I have a PhD that I’d like to put into use, but does it have to be in academia?   I’m just trying to find the best path to start investigating my return to work. My PhD is in Social Policy / Disability Studies. My roles have been supportive (cover supervisor, learning support assistant etc) and have been mainly in education (secondary, FE and tertiary).

Mother With Baby Working In Office At Home


Getting back to work after a career gap is a situation a lot of people find themselves in. Here is some advice.

You shouldn’t restrict your job search to academia or the education sector.  You’ll have learnt something useful from each of the jobs you’ve already done (eg you’d have acquired practical experience in helping a disabled or disadvantaged student learn); however, your work experience shouldn’t dictate the types of jobs you look for now.

You have bang up-to-date analytical techniques and specialised knowledge (contacts too?) relating to social policy and disability issues.  That makes you an attractive candidate for relevant vacancies in:-

  • national government (eg its research services)
  • local government
  • primary and hospital healthcare
  • parts of the voluntary sector (mainly the larger organisations working on behalf of a particular interest group – eg charities such as Scope); and
  • partnership organisations put together at local/regional level to facilitate local responses to service needs.

Your PhD proves more generally that you have transferable skills useful in a wide range of professional roles.  It proves:-

  • you’re highly intelligent
  • you’ve excellent problem analysis and research skills
  • you’ve the ability to direct and time manage your own workload and to work consistently towards demanding long-term goals
  • you’re a skilled communicator in writing and when giving verbal presentations.

General advice on getting back to work after a career break

My general advice would be – think about which types of employers need someone like you … and then make your “pitch” to them for a suitable job.

You’ll need to use your research skills to list potential employers and monitor their websites (and others) for news of project developments likely to create vacancies (whether short-term or permanent).  Competition will be slightly less intense for jobs offered on fixed-term contracts (three years or so).

Tell everyone in a position to help you – eg the academic who supervised you when you did your PhD, the teachers for whom you worked as a learning support assistant and so on – what types of jobs you’re looking for and ask them to tell you of any developments which might produce suitable vacancies.  Keep in touch with everyone helping you, to update them on your progress and current thinking.

Good luck!

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