The Women's Activities Portfolio: Returning to work after a career break

Nazreen Visram, National Council member responsible for Women’s Activities, provides tips for women who are looking to return to work after a career break.

Returning to work after an extended break is rarely easy. Not only do you have to compete with younger candidates who are hungry and ambitious, but also women often struggle with confidence after spending months, or even years, out of their industry.

Whilst more men are now taking career breaks due to the introduction of shared parental leave and an increased focus on flexible working policies, research shows that women are three times more likely as men to leave their employment for caring duties.

Here are 5 tips to get you started if you are contemplating returning to work.

1. Boost your self-belief

With lack of confidence being such a huge barrier it is important to recognise the skills you have acquired as a parent or carer, which are highly valued in the work place, such as time management, communication skills and patience. You may also be involved in voluntary activities both Jamati and external. These add another dimension to your skillset, so never underestimate the significance of this experience.

Also consider what type of work you want to do. Don’t rush your application, think about the hours, location and sector of your next employment.

2. Prepare to network

Ask friends and family for feedback on what you are good at. Write down five achievements and the skills you have demonstrated. These will help to structure your CV. One of the biggest obstacles people face after a career break is falling behind as technology and processes move on, so ensure you update your skills and knowledge by taking refresher courses and reading about current industry trends.

Before you start down the social networking route, check that you are happy for potential employers to see your online profiles. If not, clean up or delete. Tap into your networks including former employers and colleagues and exploit social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter, as many jobs are now advertised this way.

3. Work your CV and the interview

It’s important to include information on what you did during your career break. If you weren’t employed, include a ‘relevant experience’ section. Ensure that anything listed is tied in with a desirable characteristic for an employee. List events as if they were a job summarising what skills you learnt along the way.

During the interview, be succinct when you are talking about your career break, highlight the skills you have gained and talk about previous work experience. Be positive and show commitment.

4. Be creative and focused

Use your contacts to find relevant up-to-date experience. You could propose a work placement and investigate returnships, freelance, interim or temp work, or volunteering. This work supports your CV, builds your network and gives you professional confidence – and may even lead to a permanent role.

5. Make the most of flexible working

Engage with organisations that specialise in offering flexible work, like, which works with employers who are keen to promote their family-friendly credentials. Check the websites for the companies you would like to work for – look at their HR policy and their attitude to flexible working. Look out for companies that offer a range of flexible working, from flexi-time and compressed hours to working from home and job sharing.

If you would like support with returning to work or writing your CV contact Rozmin Meghjee at [email protected]. You can register for the Ismaili Job board at