Returning to work after a career break provides some tips for mums returning to work after a career break, who are looking to go back to work on a flexible basis.

Back To Work


Going back to work after a career break can be tough in the current climate, but the toughest challenge you face is building up your confidence to apply for jobs.

Lack of confidence is a huge barrier facing women who have taken years out of the workforce. You need to think about the experience you already have, both in work and outside work.

Not only have you built up a raft of skills as a parent which are useful in the workplace, including time management, communications skills and patience, but you may also have been involved in voluntary activities, such as on the parent teachers association.

You need to target what sort of job you want and what kind of hours will suit you, but prepare to be flexible over flexible working. You may think you can only do a few hours a day when with flexi hours and homeworking you might be able to take on more. Flexible working is all about negotiating what is right both for you and the organisation you work for.

Looking for a flexible job can seem an uphill struggle as few are openly advertised and many people negotiate flexibility within an existing job.

So where do you begin?

  1. Tap your networks, including friends, family and former employers/colleagues. Exploit social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Many jobs are advertised this way nowadays. If you are contacting an employer who doesn’t know you, you could ask to do a few days’ trial or a short-term project so that they can see what you’re capable of. Put forward a good business case for why hiring you on flexible hours makes sense for the organisation.
  2. Try organisations that specialise in offering flexible work, like, which works with employers who are keen to promote their family friendly credentials. Also, do research in the field you want to work in to find out what the best firms to work for are in terms of flexible working. Working Families runs an awards scheme that identifies good practice. Check the websites of the firms you want to work for – look at their HR policy and check out issues like their attitudes to flexible working. Those that have good policies on flexible working are usually keen to advertise it and to list what they offer. Look out for companies that offer a range of different types of flexible working, from flexi-time and compressed hours to working from home and job shares. Talk to people who work there, if you can, as this will give you a better idea of whether policy translates into practice.
  3. When you go for interviews, don’t be shy about asking about the company’s flexible work policies. You don’t need to ask outright if you can work part-time or from home. It is better, at interview stage, to ask indirect questions about the company’s policies, about whether people normally work beyond their contracted hours and about how many of their employees work flexibly. If you are offered the job, you would then have to make a good business case for why you should do it on a flexible basis. Be realistic and don’t ask for a degree of flexibility which clearly will not work for the kind of job you are applying for.
  4. If you have not agreed a flexible work pattern when you join as part of your contract of employment, it is advisable to go through a formal procedure for agreeing flexibility [this can be done after the first six months] so that your work pattern is written down and becomes part of your contract after you have worked it for more than a year. You can refer to this if the company subsequently seeks to change your hours which they would have to do in consultation with you or risk being in breach of contract.
  5. Remember that you still have to have childcare covered for flexible options such as working from home.

Comments [9]

  • amym says:

    How do you answer current job title/most recent? Is writing stay at home mum a death sentence?

  • Pauline Barclay says:

    I am thinking of starting to apply for part time jobs after a 3 year break, but need CV advice, I have my updated CV but not sure what people are looking for these days and as jobs are hard enough to get I need every advantage possible, as I am also now over 40! Where can I go for this?? Also I have no idea what I want to do either, where can I go for help for this too?

  • Anonymous says:

    I feel an overwhelming sense of frustration reading the above comments. I have just returned to work, after a ten year gap after raising my children. I did do some freelancing in this time, but not enough to mention. I actually responded to a post on Facebook about someone wanting a social media person to work part time, 20 hours a week, remotely from home, to fit in around school time. It was perfect! I applied, tentatively, and although I was worried I wouldn't have the technical knowledge, the marketing knowledge that I did have after 6 years Marketing prior to children, stood me in good stead. I got the job!! 2 months down the line I'm loving it and really keen for employers to recognise this huge untapped source of talent that are mothers!!!

    • Beth tunnicliffe says:

      I’ve had 10 years out (freelancing at home for a fair bit of it) I had a part time job for 18 months but the company got in to trouble and I was made redundant. I am now finding it IMPOSSIBLE to get work. The repeated thanks but no thanks emails are really getting to me. 6 years of training 10 years of working all gone to pot because I wanted to bring up my own kids ( while working freelance)

  • Anonymous says:

    I am returning to work after 5 years and applied for lots of jobs few interviews outcome either over qualified or not enough experience, i've applied for lots of customer service and administration jobs, i've even been asked questions like who will look after my kids in summer holidays and half term, its ridiculous government needs to do more to ensure that mums returning to work are given a chance and not assumed too stupid to work even basic roles which we are more than capable of doing

  • Anonymous says:

    Yet another NO in the inbox today. Apparently I did "not meet the success criteria". 20 years work experience down the tubes. My reward for having a child and wanting to return to work.

  • Anonymous says:

    Totally fed up. Applied for loads of administrative jobs but not even one interview. I'm certain that because I've spent the last few years raising a child, it's assumed I'm too stupid to work. My vast array of relevant work experience seems to be completely dismissed. At my wits end.

    Editor: Do you want to write in to our careers expert via the Advice & Support/Q & A page box? She may be able to suggest some approaches you might not have thought of.

  • Anonymous says:

    I would really love the opportunity to return to work now that my children are much older and do not require a great deal of childcare. I would only need childcare for things like teacher training days, or if my youngest son's school were to close due to weather or similar events. Before I became a mum, I worked in a customer service based environment, I had sales secretarial skills and general administration skill also. I am going to need to update my skills in certain areas, for example, when I was employed Microsoft Word 6 was the word processing programme I used, now it is Open Office 2013, so I am going to need some training. I am finding it hard applying for positions due to a severe lack of confidence, when you tell people you have children, there are some who instantly assume that you have never worked or are too stupid to be employed anywhere. I am hoping to start off in a part-time position at first, then I would love to be able to return to full time. All I need is an amazing employer to see that I can be beneficial to their company, and give me an opportunity to prove those people who doubt exactly how wrong they really are.



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