Building personal brand confidence when returning to work after a break

by | Feb 9, 2021 | Career Planning, Personal Brand

I’m returning to work after a break and I feel under-confident that I’ll still be seen as relevant. How do I overcome this?

This is a common sentiment when someone is returning to work or looking for a new role after some time off. It may be that you’ve come from time off due to parental leave, care for a sick or elderly family member, a period without work or some time off to travel or pursue further education. Often, people who are stepping back into a professional space struggle with a drop in confidence, usually around feeling they are ‘out of the loop’ or that they may have missed opportunities.

“…a drop in confidence, feeling ‘out of the loop’ or missed opportunities.”

Whether you are going back to a role, applying for jobs or starting your own business… it’s important to acknowledge and communicate a) the positives of your time off and b) the foundation you had previously built in your working life.

For example, what did your time off allow you to do or develop? Did it give you time to reflect on what you love, what’s important about your work? Did you do some reading that has deepened your knowledge in a particular field? Did you volunteer or have opportunities to contribute to a community in new ways? Did you learn from new people you met or new places you visited?

And what about the strong foundation you had already built in your working life? Everything we learn creates layers of experience that serve us in the future. Reflect on your CV and any positive feedback you’ve received about your work in the past, and identify your key strengths and why they make a difference to others. Ask people who know you for feedback on what they see as your main personal strengths, and why they matter. This will help you to confidently communicate what you can add in a new role.

I’ve just finished up in a role and will be taking a break. How do I remain relevant for when I return to work?

If you know you will be taking a long break, you can make your transition back to work easier by creating a realistic but consistent plan to ‘keep your finger on the pulse’ of your industry. What webinars or short online courses can you take to keep up your professional development? Are there online groups or communication platforms you can stay connected into to keep up your conversations with peers? Can you schedule a regular Zoom or coffee with a colleague to keep in touch? Are you able to attend the odd industry event or online networking forum to ‘show your face’? And don’t forget that LinkedIn is powerful tool for building and maintaining your network, as well as researching industries, target markets/companies, and more.

If your break from work is about career transition, you may wish to get support to help you clarify what changes you want to make, and how to go about putting those changes into place in a way that will encourage quick results and minimise risk. You might work with a coach in business or career, a brand advisor, a recruiter or an education provider to help you achieve new growth goals.

How can I demonstrate my relevance to recruiters and HR departments… despite the gap in my work life?

Whether it’s a potential interview or a coffee chat coming from an introduction, remember that people will Google you and check your online presence when making a decision about taking the conversation further. 

Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and fully optimised, including accounting for your time off, if possible. Don’t forget to use the ‘About’ section to craft a positioned bio detailing your expertise, achievements and professional interests.

Review your LinkedIn activity to ensure you are including regular posts to demonstrate your professional interests, activities and insights, and check your privacy settings and posts on your personal accounts (such as Facebook) to ensure that if someone is looking to find information about you, it’s going to be positive. The overarching take-away here is that you want your social media to say you are an active professional.

Another way to be proactive in job searching is to review and use your networks to ask for help – not just in terms of introductions and opportunities, but in terms of information and suggestions that might help you build your confidence and open more doors.