Return To Work Parent? How To Jump Back Into The Workforce After A Long Career Break

Posted On 13 Nov 2018

Return To Work Parent? How To Jump Back Into The Workforce After A Long Career Break

13 Nov 2018

Candidate Resource, News & Events

In our recent employer blog, EST10’s MD Roxanne Calder delved into our experience of successfully placing an Executive Assistant who’d been a stay-at-home parent for 13 years. As Roxanne outlined, she’s already proving to be a huge asset to her new blue-chip employer and we can’t wait to watch her career progress

At EST10, the number of return-to-work parents seeking advice and guidance on current market conditions is increasing. As such, we thought we would provide some valuable insights into how the workforce has changed and how to pitch yourself – both on paper and in interviews – if you have been out of the workforce for a considerable amount of time.


Workplace changes

As you would imagine, the modern-day workplace has evolved considerably in the last ten years, most notably due to rapid advances in workplace technology. Wi-Fi, mobile devices and teleconferencing have all transformed the way we conduct our business with hot desking and even activity based working environments becoming more prevalent.

Not surprisingly, these changes have shifted the traditional parameters of office support roles. Today, EAs in particular are expected to work with not just one but multiple senior executives who are largely client facing and require support at a much higher level. EAs are becoming more involved in operational and management projects and in many cases, also have the authority to perform executive duties and make business decisions when an executive is absent.

Companies are often a little less prescriptive when it comes to the 9-5 workday, opting for earlier/later starts/finishes depending on industry/client needs. Some companies will let you work from home at times but this is dependent on the specific role, and often how long you have been with an organisation. There is also now the expectation you will be available to check emails on the way to and from work and sometimes on the weekend.

In short, the role of an EA is very different to what it once was, even five years ago. But that should in no way stop you from wanting to pick up your office support career where you left off.

3 steps to be interview-ready

Before you even start your job search, do your research and partner with one trusted recruitment consultant who will be able to provide you with an in-depth understanding of current market conditions, workplace culture and salary expectations.

The next stage is to prepare yourself for the interview process with these key three steps.

1) Update your software skills

Making sure you are across the latest versions of Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and any accounting packages you used to use is essential. We also advise researching the latest workplace software tools which may have replaced old systems. Thankfully, there are hundreds of online courses now available, many of which are free. A good place to start is LinkedIn’s learning pages and the University of Sydney also offers some great information technology courses including Microsoft, MYOB and Xero.

When you register with an office support recruitment agency for the first time, you will be required to complete a range of software tests including typing speed tests. While you will never be competing with other candidates based on score, these tests do highlight your strengths, so it is important you are as proficient as possible in these areas to accurately highlight your skills.

2) Update your resume to include new soft skills (and create a LinkedIn profile if you haven’t done so already)

We often come across the assumption that parents who have been out of the paid workforce for a long time are somehow less skilled or that their skills have become rusty. This is a myth you will need to dispel, both on your resume and in an interview.

As you will know more than anyone, managing a household with children finely tunes problem solving, organisational and time management skills, and is one of the best environments to develop resilience and innovative thinking. You need to be able to delve into your experiences and draw out examples. What skills have you gained that make you more competitive? What can you deliver? What will you be good at? Also, highlight any volunteer experiences and subsequent skills you have gained while out of the paid workforce.

When updating your resume, create a LinkedIn profile to match, if you haven’t done so already. There are some really interesting blogs on LinkedIn that will help you achieve a professional five-star profile.

3) Be flexible and prepared to hit the ground running

Be aware that you need to be flexible with the types of roles on offer. For example, do not restrict yourself to permanent opportunities if there are some interesting temping or contract roles available in the interim. Temp roles can open up permanent roles within an organisation, can provide great networking opportunities and are invaluable for your resume as a return-to-work parent. Also understand that part-time roles with flexible hours are rarely advertised – these may be negotiable down the track once you have worked with an organisation for a certain amount of time.

When you start applying for new roles, expect to interview quickly as the market is currently incredibly fast-paced. And make sure you accommodate the proposed interview times. You also need to have already taken care of your family commitments in the eventuality you secure a role immediately. For example, school pick-ups and relevant childcare arrangements need to be in place, at least tentatively, so you are ready to commit as soon as possible. The expectation will be that you can start straight away or within a standard four-week timeframe.

Lastly, be enthusiastic! Be dedicated and committed to making your new career chapter work for you, your family and your new employer.