How to Come Back After a Career Break

Posted by IAB Australia On May 26, 2014

There are a lot of reasons people take a career break. Redundancy, exhaustion, building a family, fulfilling the role of carer, or to pursue a personal passion. A career break is a good and healthy thing to do. But there is always a fear about coming back. I’ve taken a few career breaks in my time, and I wanted to share that story.

The purpose of this ‘How To’ is to share what worked for me, in the hope that it may work for you.

Where to start? Firstly, it’s about the quality of your network, and how you can leverage that when you need to. You need to think about this while you are working, and make it a habit. Anecdotally, we know that the best place to gain knowledge of open roles, particularly senior ones is through people you know. I am always stunned, in this day and age that people are not focussing on building their LinkedIn network, ties and contributions. Take it from me, it’s a daily task. I get the majority of my useful news and views, including open roles, from people posting in LinkedIn rather than any place else (Facebook for me, is entirely personal, and I don’t mix the two). Google the cheat sheet for LinkedIn and do the steps.

Stirring up your network and asking people for coffee is a next step. Note, this isn’t lunch or drinks, it’s a quick catch up to reintroduce yourself and to share information. Before you meet your contacts, do your homework. Where are they now? What are they doing? Read up on the environment they are in before you stir in that first lump of sugar. The aim of the game is to be useful to them, and in turn they could well be useful for you. Share stories and recent information. And then, at the end, talk about you.

One of the things that I found most effective was to develop a very short script on what I was looking for in my next job, and to be able to clearly articulate that at the end of a catch up. Mine went like this: (and I have added my rationale in brackets):

  • I am looking for a digital pure play (working with new and old business models was exhausting)
  • I want to work in a multinational (my kids were older and could be left, and I have always found working in overseas markets massively stimulating in terms of the people)
  •  I want to run it/something (I had elected to build my career as a generalist, rather than a specialist, and had identified that I was a “builder”)
  • I wanted to work for people who inspire me (it had been a long time between drinks for me, and frankly a great culture almost trumps everything)

Please note, there were no defining characteristics about who the company was, or what I was to be paid. These things come later. When you think about that script, or perhaps building your own you will note that it can be broken down into four categories. Business model, geography/size, role, personal need.

To cut a long story short. It worked for me. An early coffee appointment remembered what I had said and a couple of months later, called me…. “I think I’ve found the job you described”. Eight weeks later I was in it.

What would your script be?

And who are you going to tell?

IAB Australia

IAB Australia is the peak trade association for online advertising in Australia. As one of over 43 IAB offices globally and with a rapidly growing membership, the role of the IAB is to support sustainable and diverse investment in digital advertising across all platforms in Australia.