Transferrable Skills from a Career Break Could Make You MD Material!

Do not despise this day of small beginnings and the transferrable skills you are learning right here, right now. We have just hired a returner who was out of the industry for thirty years. Thirty! And another who was out for thirteen! There are so many background circumstances to taking a career break: redundancy, illness, parenthood. My two had highly valid reasons but importantly: they knew their "secret sauce"...their transferrable skills picked up on career break. Whilst returning can be daunting, it is worth asking yourself what  professional skills you actually are refining? 

The Skills that I Picked Up on Career Break

This was my reality: December 2012; The front door was open on a drafty, Siberian-themed afternoon in December whilst painters varnished the stairs. The cleaner was probably here because all spare cash was blown on her. There was a carpenter fitting shelves, I had to run an errand to Mum's, I was the MD of festivities (twenty at ours for the 25th). My husband wasn’t enjoying work and I needed to wind him up and send him out with positive affirmation each day, then get the shopping in.

Managing Competing Priorities

Did I look like an MD? Well, not then in my Nike bottoms, I grant you. But add two yappy toddlers leaving a trail of fruit on the floor, grizzling, noses streaming, incessant traffic noise and from an open front door. Tradesmen asking you 6 million questions. Vacuum cleaner roaring, Amazon shopping exuding its pernicious allure. I was a veritable whirling dervish of productivity.  It felt good.

Commercial Skills Developed on Career Break

There was so much going on and in that moment, I realised as I juggled that I was pretty good under pressure. Not to mention organised, well able to handle competing priorities, confident to  nail a to-do list, not get distracted and make strategic decisions despite competing priorities. I had razor-sharp focus. I remember my Mum watching me on such a day from the sofa. What she said was one of the main catalysts for getting back into the workforce. “I think it’s time you went back out and got a job”.

In case you haven’t given it to yourself… let me give you the permission that my mother gave me in that moment!

Here are some role models returners: male and female from the Timewise Returners category last year. They all had their moments of doubt in the wilderness too. These are the trailblazers who educate the market on how valuable returners are.  Robert Walters, the professional recruitment firm wrote a brilliant white paper on why women coming back to work after a break are marketable. In this they talk about the “valuable skills” developed “away from the workplace” in “volunteering, passing higher education, freelancing, working in another field pro-bono, which offers “unique perspectives”.

Think About What You’ve Learned in Your Time Out

IT skills (especially social media), interpersonal (from local associations, sports or mentoring), organisational (school committees, planning events), business development (startups, charity work), volunteering (there is a great app called Gro that will build your CV from volunteering skills). Problem solving! Stakeholder management! Negotiation! Make sure you link these back to the requirements of the role you are looking for to get maximum impact.

The truth is you have learned life skills that are useful in any industry and they will be so invaluable. You’re probably MD material!

Finally, don't apologise for taking a career break. It’s not will add value with fresh thinking and a mature perspective. Robert Walters advise interviewing managers: “problem solving or other skills may not necessarily come from a professional environment”. You are part of a “diverse talent pool” that is becoming more attractive to employers. That career break of yours has commercial worth.

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