Around half a million professional women in the UK are looking to come back to work after a career break, according to researchers at PwC. And an increasing number of men are taking breaks too. Over the last nine years, the team at Obelisk have learnt a lot about what returners need to do to make a successful come back.
We’re passionate about helping talented people to thrive in the profession, so we’ve created a guide with tips and inspiration to help you if you’re thinking about coming back to the law. Whether your break lasted 10 months or 10 years, there is something useful for everyone.
To whet your appetite, here are our ten steps to getting back into legal work – pick up our free guide here for more detail, and good luck!
1. Check that you’re still on the same path
The returners guide goes into detail about how to carry out a skills MOT, but in essence, you need to start with spending time considering and recording your skills, achievements and what you enjoy.
It’s worth doing this first step before anything else, as if you go through this process and discover that you really don’t enjoy any of the work that you used to do, or that uses your legal skills, you’ll want to re-assess and work out what makes you happy, work-wise. That may still be in the legal industry but in a different role, or it may mean re-training or changing tack entirely.
2. Boost your confidence
Talented lawyers are always in demand. However, when you’re starting out again, especially after a break of two years or more, it can feel daunting.
Remembering positive feedback, revitalising old networks, particularly with buddies or mentors, and even (resources permitting) investing in confidence-boosting coaching can pay dividends.
3. Consider what your ideal role looks like
Do you want to jump back to a full-time office role, or would you ideally find something more flexible, perhaps even based remotely or, the holy grail, based from home?
If you’re looking for flexible or remote working, then register with specialist providers like the team at Obelisk Support. This route is particularly useful if you only want to work two or three days a week.
4. Re-activate your network
Managers often feel most comfortable offering a job to someone they know, either directly or by reputation. A personal recommendation can count for a huge amount and help outweigh the fact you have been out of the industry for a while.
Get in touch with your old managers, contacts and mentors. Let people know you’re planning to return to work and start meeting up with previous industry contacts. No-one is going to object to being invited to grab a coffee with an old contact.
5. Get your CV up-to-date
Our post on our sister blog The Attic on 10 CV tips for returning lawyers is a good starting point. That putting time and effort into your CV is essential goes without saying. It’s also worth bearing in mind that lots of organisations these days use online recruiting tools, so keep the layout of your CV simple so that it is easy to upload.
6. Sort out your LinkedIn profile
If you’ve been out of the industry for a while, you may not have used LinkedIn seriously before but it’s become a vital tool and essential that you (a) have a profile and (b) that it matches your CV in terms of dates, experience and so on.
Remember, you get out of LinkedIn what you put in, so it is worth the time and effort sharing (and even writing) effective content relating to the position that you seek.
7. Consider a ‘Returnship’
If you’ve been out of the industry for a long time, you might want to consider adding some more recent work experience to your CV.
“Returnship” programmes can vary in their components, however, they typically involve working within either an in-house team or a firm on a programme that provides training, coaching and up-skilling, with the potential of a longer term job opportunity at the end of it. Read our interview with Lisa Unwin, Co-Founder of the Reignite programme for lawyers.
8. Be prepared for conference call or video conference interviews
Again, depending on when you last attended an interview, don’t let a request for a conference call or even video/Skype call put you off, or presume that it is not so serious because it is not conducted in person.
It is extremely common to speak to busy recruiters and HR in this way now for an initial call, sometimes even at later rounds, and as such, ensure that you have appropriate technology and a quiet place with childcare sorted (if that’s relevant for you), even for a “quick chat”. You’ve no doubt seen the BBC Interview interrupted by the presenter’s child , amusing perhaps when shared on Facebook, less so for the person speaking to the camera.
9. Organise your life admin
Getting things organised and in order whilst you are applying for roles will mean that once you actually start working everything flows a lot more smoothly. If you’re planning a return, put time in now to thinking about how you can cover, and ideally, streamline your other commitments.
10. Look after yourself
If you’re making the transition back to work, no matter how few hours you’re working initially, you are still going through a period of change that will impact on you physically, mentally and emotionally.
Mental health is finally becoming accepted as being as important as physical health. Take time to look after both – remembering that carving out even the smallest amount of time to yourself outside of work, sleeping and caring responsibilities is essential.