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Returning to work: Sample CV template and guide

You’ve taken some time off, but now you’re ready to return to the world of work. It’s time to show employers what you’ve learnt while you’ve been away.

It's Time

So you’ve taken time out of your career to look after your family, travel the world or just consider your options, but now the time has come to get back to work.

Whether you want to get straight back into the same career, or are looking for a completely new direction, getting your CV right is key to getting a foot in the door.

What job do you want?

Before you start applying for jobs, you need to think about the sort of work you want to return to, in order to tailor your CV effectively. Do you want to go straight back to the same job? Or are you looking for a brand new career?

It’s important to only apply for roles that suit your needs, especially if you’ve got other commitments which would affect your availability. Depending on the industry, there’s a range of flexible working options available to you, including part-time, shift work, job sharing and working from home, so it’s always good to explore your options.

Being clear about your career choices will not only make you seem more passionate, but you’ll also find it much easier explaining to employers why you want to work for them.

Why did you leave work?

One of the things you’ll need to explain in your CV is why you left work and why you’re looking to return. Don’t worry, this doesn’t need to be a long and detailed explanation, just a few short paragraphs at the top of your CV.

It’s important to remember many employers understand people will need to take career breaks, so it’s all about how you present it. If it’s a valid reason, and you can show you’ve learnt something from it, then an employer will look past any CV gaps.

What have you learnt?

It’s important to tell employers what you’ve learnt and achieved during your time away. No matter what you’ve been doing, you’re bound to have picked up useful transferable skills without even realising. Brought up a family? You’ll have great budgeting and timekeeping skills, as well as being able to handle responsibility. Went travelling? You’ll have learnt about other cultures and maybe even picked up a new language.

Demonstrate how these new skills could be applied to the role and how it could benefit their company. This is particularly important if you’re looking to change careers as you need to show them you’re prepared for a brand new role.

Don’t forget to mention all the achievements, skills and responsibilities you’ve had in previous jobs too.

Getting references

No matter how long you’ve been away from work, your first port of call when looking for references is always your previous employer.

But if you don’t have much experience, or you’ve lost contact with your last reference, use a personal reference instead who can speak for your character and general work ethic. Steer clear of family or friends who could appear bias, and ask someone who has dealt with you in a professional environment, such as former colleagues, clients or teachers.

If you’re lucky enough to have several people willing to be your reference, pick the employer that’s in a similar sector to the one you’re applying for.