When you are looking for a new job after a career break, the question you often ask yourself is “What can I do now?” The gap in your work experience may feel like a full stop. That you need to start again and find a new work personality; you may not want to go back to your previous career, or have the belief you will need to start again.

This question isn’t just limited those returning to work. You may be sat at your work desk, asking yourself this very question.  You may have recently returned from parental leave, or be back at your desk so long you feel like you are part of the furniture!

Regardless of your current situation, working out your next career step can feel like a needle in a haystack. Not knowing where to start let alone how to take the first step.

How you can work out what you want to do next

In my recruitment days, and regularly through my career coaching now, one of the first questions I ask is “How did you choose the industry you are in”.

I assume, you see, that everyone has chosen what they are doing.  Even if it hasn’t been a conscious thing, your values, beliefs, and interests have influenced your career choices up until now.

By taking a moment to consider how you have got to where you are, right now, you are able to unpick the decisions you have made (however unconscious) to help you decide what you want for the future.  You can identify not only what you choose to do, but also what you chose to reject.

Career Break Return to work what do nextThis not only gives you the chance to take a step back and consider what has brought you to where you are now but also stop you making any job or employer mistakes again!

I call it Retrospective Career Planning. You may call it joining the dots.

Think back to your current or last job – you may be an employee, run a business or a sole trader.

Grab yourself a pen and paper (or your relevant piece of tech) and work through these questions:

  1. How did you choose what you are doing now? Just tell yourself the circumstances that brought you there. Why you choose that path?
  2. Which opportunities did you reject and why?
  3. If you are no longer providing that service, product or holding that role, what circumstances led to that?

Now, before you get too excited, we have a little more work to do!

This is where it gets interesting and why it will take some time; invest it, I promise it will be worth it.

return to work after career break what do next

Think back to every job you have had to date.  Either as an employee or a business owner.

Go back as far as you can. Even that first job you took as a student. It all counts!  Ask yourself the same three points.

Every time you answer these questions you will start to see a pattern.

It may be the type of job; who you are working with or for. It could be your path is driven by avoiding something, rather than choosing to do something.

As this pattern grows, take some time to think about how you would want to replicate in the next role – who you work with and for, what you do and where you do it – as well as those things you would want to avoid like the plague next time.

Use this as the blueprint of what you do next for your career. Sometimes, it is worth taking the time to look back on your life so far, to help you create a future that works for you.

Join The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox to discuss your next steps.

Want to learn more about career planning? Check out my blog here or my Career Map Strategy Workbook (only available until 24th December) here.

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