How to update your CV after a career break

CV

Returning to the workplace after time out with kids? Brush up your application with these tips from Mumsnetters who have been there, done that, and got the power suit.

 

Filling the gap

The first thing you'll need to do when you dig out your old CV is decide how to word the part that explains you've been a SAHP (stay-at-home parent). The general consensus is to keep it brief and be honest. Something like "Career break to look after my children" will do.

"As a recruiter, I'd be put off by CVs that list the skills you have used at home, such as managing household finances or childcare - working mothers do these tasks too. Keep it brief and to the point, and list your hobbies so I can see you're an active person with interests."

 

Selling your skills

Remember to talk up all the things you can bring to a potential employer - you'll probably have relevant skills and specialities that you learned in your last job.

"Evidence-based CVs always stand out. If you say you have a particular skill, always back it up with an example."

Try to match your CV to the job description of the position you're applying for, too - it's good to have a few different versions of your CV for different applications.

"If you go for a job as a dog walker and they say it's desirable to have experience of caring for dogs, then your Excel skills may not be relevant - but the fact you looked after your neighbour's pit bulls really comes into its own."

 

Writing your CV

"See it as a marketing document for your experience and achievements. Keep it to two pages maximum, and use bullet points."

Poorly formatted CVs will be overlooked. Correct spelling and grammar, and a complete and accurate employment history, are the minimum criteria for a decent CV. Otherwise, it's likely to get binned.

It's also important not to include irrelevant information. GCSEs or A-Levels aren't really relevant, but skills acquired in previous roles definitely are. Likewise, your date of birth, marital status, number of children, and other domestic details don't need to be in your CV either.

Finally, think about how to really appeal to potential employers.

"If you're applying for a job in a creative agency, you can make your CV look really quirky to stand out, but if you want to be an accountant, keep it formal."

 

Approaching employers

When you come to apply for jobs, start by emailing your CV. Don't deliver it by hand unless it's a very small company, like the local cafe - recruiters need to be able to email CVs around to relevant people, so a paper CV will often be left sitting on the desk.

Remember you don't have to wait for a job to be advertised - it's fine to email a company you'd like to work for and ask if they have any openings coming up.

If your industry has significantly changed or you don't have much prior experience, you might (unfortunately) have to go back at a slightly lower level than you'd like.

One Mumsnetter explains, "I aimed myself at entry-level work at first, like receptionist roles, to build up my experience and skills. I accessed any training offered and started to move up the ladder, so I'm now looking for something more challenging."

 

Thinking about going back - but not quite yet?

If you get the chance, take on small, work-related tasks while you're a SAHP, like freelance projects or volunteering - this shows you're keen to use your skills and keep up to date with any advances in the industry. It also suggests to recruiters that you've had one eye on getting back to work. Plus, these roles are very useful for obtaining more recent references.

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