Are you looking to return to work after 2 or more years out? Or have you returned to work after a career break?

(67 Posts)
EmmaMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 26-Apr-18 16:24:22

Returning to work after an extended career break can be really difficult. At MNHQ we are interested in finding out the barriers that parents face when returning to work after having 2 or more years out. We’d love to hear from those of you who are looking to return to work after a break and those who have returned to work after 2 or more years out.

There are numerous barriers that can affect parents returning to work, from work/life balance and childcare costs to difficulties interviewing and lack of confidence. Please post on this thread the issues you have faced when looking for work after a career break of 2 or more years, whether you ended up returning or not.

Are you put off even attempting to go back to work even if you wanted to? If you have tried and didn’t manage to get back to work please share why you think this was? If you were successful returning to your sector after a long break please share your tips for how you managed this.

We are interested in talking to a few Mumsnetters about their experiences of returning to work after a 2 or more year break. If you’d be happy to be contacted about this please fill in this form whether you have returned to work or not and we will be in touch.



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OP’s posts: |
Timeforanewname2014 Fri 27-Apr-18 20:32:32

I returned to work (part time) after a gap of just over two years when my youngest child was born. The biggest barrier for me was confidence. I thought I had forgotten everything I knew professionally and even how to be at work and how to talk to adults about something other than babies! What helped was a wonderful, wonderful employer/ manager who has always given me as much flexibility as I need. I realise I am very lucky to have this and don't think I could have returned to work so quickly without it. Also having a very supportive husband and mum who do as much as they can to 'help' me balance work and children.

Timeforanewname2014 Fri 27-Apr-18 20:35:33

Also meant to say - wrt confidence- it took a while ( longer than pre children) to build up but it did happen. Also, my role now gives me the opportunity to speak to lots of returning mums and I always talk to them about my experience to try to reassure them. My conversations with them suggest lots of people feel this way!

Minisoksmakehardwork Fri 27-Apr-18 21:37:38

My youngest are now 5. Initially I didn't go back to work at the time as full time childcare for 4 would have wiped my wage and some. When the youngest dc started to school I looked again, but where we lived, and the children were schooled, was really quite rural so before and after school care was hugely limited. We couldn't rely on family and friends to fill the gap, especially for 4. Although I did help others out on occasion.

Now we have moved again. Better before school care. But no jobs which fit round School aged children. Also, I have 1 sen and 1 possible Sen child, 3 of the dc in various regular medical appointments which, despite asking, can't be scheduled Better to allow me one trip to the same hospital. I've been 3 times in one week before to 2 different departments for 3 dc.

So reasonably no employer would look at me as an asset even if I were to ask for parental leave.

I'm looking at home working options.

reallyanotherone Sat 28-Apr-18 12:17:15

Mini, are you a lone parent? If not where is your dh in all this? Your post is all “I” - childcare would wipe your wage, you need to get to all the hospital appts.

When i decided to go back to work after 5 years dh scaled back- he arranged flexible working and some working from home. So he is now equally responsible for school pick ups and dr’s appts.

Ime school hours jobs are rare, and low paid. If you want to go back to work, you cannot have sole responsibilty for children and work- you either need paid or family help.

JudgeRulesNutterButter Sat 28-Apr-18 16:00:47

I’m just starting to contemplate returning. Primary difficulties so far:

Working out the sequence of childcare/applying for jobs. I can’t get a job without ccare in place. But that means we have to find money for childcare without the actual income to pay for it. And as I’m currently looking for part time work, I also have to be psychic and find a nursery that’s not the opposite direction to my future workplace and book my son in for hours which will be the same as my currently non-existent job. <rant over>

Actually finding a reasonably flexible part time job.

Finding a reasonably flexible part time job that pays enough to cover the childcare - oh and ideally a job that I don’t hate. Even more ideally, one that would lead to more of a career as the DC get older.

Doing all of the above without the whole thing seeming like more hassle than it’s worth and giving up. It is very tempting to decide to just wait another couple of years. Particularly since my reason for returning is more to have a long-term benefit than anything else. In the short term it will probably be added stress for little to no extra money.

Paleblue Sat 28-Apr-18 19:38:54

I have been out of work for 5 years. I was made redundant from my job around the time ds was starting primary school. I worked in finance.

It was difficult for me to return to work because I had relatives who needed me to care for them. I did some voluntary work and open university courses so I had things to put on my CV.

I am now in the same position as others where I need child care before I can apply for jobs. But I can't afford child care without a job and I don't know what days I would need child care. I tried ds in after school care two days a week but it didn't help me find a job so I took him out of it as was very expensive.

I am a lone parent. Ds' father died. Only relatives nearby are elderly and need care.

Have been offered a school catering job 10hours a week on a temporary contract and I am over the moon to be eventually returning to paid work. I also do some volunteer work with disabled adults. Hopefully, eventually, I will be able to earn more.

It has been so disappointed and sad to end up in this position for 5 years. It has made me feel like a failure.


disneydatknee Sat 28-Apr-18 23:33:16

I started temping at payroll place and fell pregnant after 2 months. Stuck it out until I was too pregnant to function! Then I was unemployed for 3 years while I was looking after my child, decided I wanted to start earning again and went straight back into my old job role after all that time. I'm loving being back and it was the easiest way back in. Literally decided I needed a job and was back in a week later.

ByTheSea Sun 29-Apr-18 14:54:47

I was very lucky and probably don't typify the situation. In 2004, I took 6 1/2 years off my career as a business analyst in financial services to raise my DC, who ranged from 2-9 years old. Once my youngest was in school, I took a level 2 qualification in preschool practice and then worked part time school hours 3x a week for a few years, close to home. DH was made redundant from financial services IT in 2009. In 2010, I put my details on LinkedIn and within a week or so, had an interview and a job offer. I've been there ever since. I put DH's CV in shortly after I was there and he also landed a good role there (he had the skill set they needed). I make now about what I was making when I left, but have a lot of flexibility in my current role, had a promotion and my job is quite secure.

lljkk Sun 29-Apr-18 15:00:46

No way I want to be interviewed, lol.
I went back after 8 yrs. For 1st 18m only 70% of FT.
I had to hand household management to husband. Took him a while to get into groove, but he's pretty good at it now. Mine is very flexible employer & husband works PT, too.

doesthatmakesense Mon 30-Apr-18 12:36:44

The biggest barriers for me have been confidence, progression in my field of work whilst I've been doing other things, and worries about how I would be able to still be present enough for my dc, one of whom has additional needs. Her needs (she has aspergers) make accessing childcare very challenging so holidays are also a concern.

CreativeMumma Mon 30-Apr-18 12:48:59

I’ve not been employed for 10 years, I had to stop working due to a health condition (which I’ve learned to manage) and then children. I thinking about applying for a role at their school so it fits in with term time etc. My confidence is very low, I worry about my health condition not being manageable and i’ll Be rubbish! This is a role I would have done with my eyes closed 10yrs ago!
Also what do you put at references? They want 5 years covered which is when I was bringing up my children... I feel lost.

BlitzenandMikey Mon 30-Apr-18 19:58:27

I left teaching 10 years ago my, once my two children were pre school age. This coupled with a big house move and serious illness has left me with quite a sporadic work history! I’ve really struggled to get jobs and both jobs I’ve had since teachig, have ended due to funding issues. Im now in my mid forties and once again I am without a full time job. I volunteer for a couple of organisations so I have current references but in honesty I am losing faith and hope. Feel too old to rejoin the work force and quite de skilled. I won’t give up but the effort of job hunting each week is exhausting! I’m a hardworking individual with a brain, but I just happen not to be employed right now.

Crispmonster1 Mon 30-Apr-18 21:24:46

Worked in NHS doing shift work on the ward. First child had long term medical difficulties and was in hospital a lot. I worked part time but felt awful taking time off to care for sick child. Boss unsympathic. HR weren’t informed of my situation so offered no support. I didn’t realise I could have advised them myself or asked for help. I felt I had to leave.
I am ready to go back after 2-3 year off. However, I need to do a return to work course for 3 months, pay for the child care and do the clinical hours whilst running a family home and caring for them. Husband works away 80% of time.
Financially and logistically it’s going to be a challenge but I NEED “ME” back!

Spudlet Mon 30-Apr-18 21:52:17

I also can't quite work out how I'd juggle the order of finding a job and finding childcare, so I'm hoping to go self-employed. Unfortunately that means completely abandoning my former industry and teaching myself an entirely new skill, which has been a challenge - partly that's down to geography (my old job was pretty specialised and most of the opportunities for it are in London, which is not where I am or want to be). But also, I just can't imagine having the confidence to go back into that role now, after two years out, and it's not a role that would have offered much flexibility either. So I'm starting again, essentially, with something that can be done at home and at all hours, and working during nap time and after bedtime, with DS starting at the local preschool as well.

Although there's a big part of me that relishes the idea of self-employment, there's another part that resents being essentially pushed into it. And as well as that, I'm doing this at least partly because I feel the need to justify my couple of years out to potential future employers, which I also sort of resent - I've been caring for a small child, not sitting about doing nothing. But such is life - I hope that what I'm doing will give me options for the future and in the more immediate term, do more mundane and boring things like replacing the bits that keep falling off the car and allowing me to buy a new bra without feeling (entirely self-inflicted) spasms of guilt.

ProfYaffle Tue 01-May-18 17:59:14

I took a break of 12 years. Went back in September last year. I've managed to go back to exactly the same role at exactly the same level I was before I left.

It helped enormously that throughout my break I always had one eye on going back. I did many years of voluntary work related to my field and through that managed to keep updated. I also took on a few community based volunteer projects which were entirely unrelated but were really good general experience showing that I could manage a budget and motivate a team.

My other lucky break was finding a public sector employer with excellent family friendly policies. I was able to apply for a post advertised as full time on a job share basis. I also have flex time which means I can start work after the school run and have been able to take time off for hospital appointments etc.

References are an issue though. I thought I was OK because of my voluntary experience but my employer refused to accept them because they weren't paid employment. Luckily my old employer could provide one. How this will pan out with the GDPR in the future I don't know.

Despite all the above, I still found that confidence was an issue. So much had moved on during my absence, little things like networked printers you need to sign into - never experienced that before! I was afraid of looking like Mr Burns, turning up to meetings with my pens and paper while everyone else taps away at their mobile devices ....

It's been so, so worth persevering. I'm doing well, getting good feedback, really enjoying myself and they insist on paying me as well! grin

Re the 'talking to' - could MNHQ explain a bit more about that? What does it involve?

feejee Tue 01-May-18 21:36:30

I had a break of almost 3 years after having my son. Prior to having my son I was a scientist, but soon discovered no one wants a part time scientist. I didn't have any success applying for lower level jobs in research, e.g. technician work - I assume due to my over-qualifications. I also was unsuccessful getting interviews for jobs in kitchens/basic admin etc which were part time and was questioned several times why I was applying for jobs not requiring my qualifications. I can understand companies thinking I would just leave quickly, but my cv shows loyalty and I just wanted to be part time and I enjoy most things. I found it tricky to find one off childcare to attend interviews and I still have ongoing issues with childcare as it doesn't open till 8am and it takes 75 minutes to get to work, luckily I have a great boss who doesn't mind my lateness as I can just work later. I must admit I have lost a lot of confidence in my time out of work but it is slowly coming back. I am now working 16hrs a week doing admin work which is very varied and organise conferences, finances as well as day to day admin in a lovely team. I may not earn what I used to but I'm definitely happier. I also find, in general, I easily switch off from work the rest of the week when I'm not working, whereas when I was full time I was in most weekends too.

ohh Fri 04-May-18 15:55:55

This is me! 10 years out. Was only meant to be 5 but DH health was bad so took more time to look after him as well. DH works 2 hours away in not a very well paid job but it is flexible for him to have lots of check ups etc.

So effectively I am like a single parent as he leaves at 0630 and gets back at 1845. No chance of school pick up!

I have looked at going back to work, but my old profession is full time and could only go part time if I was with that employer full time before.

My old boss will give me a reference, i have had 2 job interviews. 1 job part time I was given I had to turn down as the hours were not regular so could not arrange childcare more than a week in advance. Plus I would be paying to work, as we are quite rural so commuting costs are high.

Second interview they liked me but said I was over qualified and should be going for a managers role! Thank you but that is 45 hrs a week, over an hour away.

I have a DS about to start secondary in September but he has SEND. DD will be in year 11. The age gap is also causing issues. One child minder would take youngest but not oldest etc.

I am confident and love talking to people but its finding the elusive right mix.

thegreenheartofmanyroundabouts Fri 04-May-18 18:24:45

I was out of the jobs market for 14 years in total. I started looking when my youngest was in Y1 but it took two years to find something. I've got an Oxbridge degree and did lots of voluntary work whilst the children were tiny but I was told the degree made me overqualified for part time admin roles and apparently non of the voluntary work counted. I got back into work via temping. I did try retraining as a teacher but my degree was the wrong sort of degree and the college weren't prepared to accept that I was well read in the area and could learn fast. So now I'm a vicar and not an RE teacher.

ohh Fri 04-May-18 20:40:27

We 're lucky that we can change and modify our jobs because I have never seen a man do a complete change unless something catastrophic

jonesnicole Sat 05-May-18 10:17:14

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

NotACompleterFinis Sat 05-May-18 10:18:50

I've been out of the workforce for nearly 6 years now. I took voluntary redundancy whilst on maternity leave, had another child 15 months later (we already had 4 older ones) and it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I was trying to avoid a recurrence of post natal depression which I'd had with the others which I thought had been brought on by a shockingly short 6 month maternity leave. (Hindsight that wasn't the only factor).

Anyway now my youngest has started school. Financially I need to return to work - albeit part-time - we have used up any savings/contingency etc.

I thought "I'll just get a part-time admin role". Having spent nearly fifteen years in the civil service working up to Team Leader level I thought that wouldn't be too hard.
Boy did I get that wrong!
I haven't tried going back to my old job because it doesn't exist anymore. I feel that the best way to get back into work is by using your old network. Or creating a new one.
I've spent countless hours crafting bespoke cv's for jobs - I haven't had any interviews -and I've been looking since October last year.
I think I've been going at it all wrong.
I spoke to a careers adviser at a jobs fair and she recommended that I do some voluntary admin work so that I have some recent experience. But I already do this.
I'm pretty sure this is not the real answer though.
Just from this thread you can see that people have got back into work after a longer gap than mine.
I think it's to do with people and knowing what you want.
Wanting a generic admin role to fit in with school hours isn't specific enough.
I think I need to decide exactly where I want to work. Then I need to explore that avenue as far as possible - even when there isn't a vacancy - so that when there is a vacancy I'm fully ready to step up to the role, and the recruiters already know me.
I haven't been following a plan - just randomly applying - I think this is a problem.
It would be great if there was someone to help with the plan, to make me accountable for taking the right actions.
I've been wanting to work for myself - I thought I would do that after I'd done some part-time work and got finances back on track.
Locally the best help is for people setting up by themselves, there is mentoring and workshops.
Would be great if there was something like this for women getting back into work.
Maybe I'll set up as 'Back to work Coach' when I've got it sussed!

hettyforthright Sat 05-May-18 14:37:36

I go back to work next week after 2 years off. These are the main things worrying me:

Will I know what the hell to do anymore?
Will I have any witty/interesting chat that isn't an anecdote about how funny my children are?
Will I piss everyone off by having to leave early to get my train to do nursery and after school club pick up? (Agreed with management, but still)
Will the trains be delayed?
Will the commute (1.5 hours twice a day) be knackering?
Will the household fall apart without me at home batch cooking/washing/organising kids activities and generally running the home show?
Will the children be ok with earlier drop offs and later pick ups and extra childcare?
Will I be ok away from them so much? ( actually I think it'll be good for me - I'm overdosing on them at the moment)
And - most importantly - what the hell do I wear?

helendebs Sat 05-May-18 18:47:38

I've written a blog about my struggle with returning to work in a perfect parenting job, my anxiety and lack of confidence since having children.

BlitzenandMikey Sat 05-May-18 22:10:23

Some really interesting stories here. I'm glad it isn't just me who has lost direction. I never knew how hard it would be, finding something enjoyable and which pays at the grand old age of 46! I might be lucky before retirement at 68!

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