Returning to Work After 10+ Years

Have you had a career break? Learn more about what stay-at-home moms can do to prepare for a return to work after over 10 years at home. Read our top tips here.

It’s very common to take a break to start a family and assume the full-time role of a stay-at-home parent. In fact, almost half (43%) of women leave their jobs and take an extended career break to raise their children, including those in highly-qualified roles. However, for many, there comes a time when your kids are all grown up, maybe even ready to fly the nest, and it’s time for you to re-enter the workforce.

Whether you’ve been out of work for 10 years or 20 years, there’s no doubt that getting back to work can seem daunting. Unlike returning to work postpartum or a relatively shorter career break, returning to work after a long time away can mean you become out of touch with the latest industry trends and working practices, and your skills are also likely to be outdated. Not to mention, for many moms returning to work after 10 years, it can still be a challenging juggling act balancing your family and work responsibilities, which can make your return to the office even more difficult.

Although it might not always be easy to imagine yourself back in a work environment, it’s absolutely possible and it’s important to remember that there is support available to help you make the transition after all this time. Let’s have a closer look at what you can do to prepare for your return to work after over 10 years away.

What’s in this article?

What is an extended career break?

A career break is any unpaid leave from your job that lasts longer than two months. An extended career break typically refers to a career gap that lasts more than 10 years. Some individuals, moms especially, will even choose to return to work after 25 years, having stayed at home to bring up their children until they finish high school. Yet, there are many reasons why someone may choose to take a break from work.

Is it possible to return to work after taking a break for 10+ years?

Absolutely, whether you’ve been absent from the workforce for one year or 30 years, it’s never too late to return to work. You may require upskilling or reskilling to get workplace-ready, but it is certainly possible to return to work after taking a break for 10+ years.

6 Top tips for moms returning to work after more than 10 years

  1. Ask yourself why you are making the decision to return to work
  2. Update your professional social media presence
  3. Update your skills
  4. Build your confidence
  5. Address the ‘mommy’ gap on your resume
  6. Enroll on a Returners program

1. Ask yourself why you are making the decision to return to work

Returning to work after a long career break can be a significant decision, so it’s important to reflect on why you want to go back to work. You’ll need to consider all angles, including your personal and professional goals, financial needs, and the impact this decision could have on your family. After all, they are the reason you left work in the first place!

You’ll also need to define your non-negotiables for your new role. For example: do you require a late start to drop off the kids at school? Flexible working hours to pick up the kids from school later in the day? Make sure your new job works for your new lifestyle, as it’s likely quite different from when you initially started your career.

Understanding your motivations will help you stay focused and committed during your transition period, giving you the drive and confidence to step back into work. It can also help you find a suitable role for you that you will enjoy, suits your lifestyle as a mom, and meets your financial requirements.

2. Update your professional social media presence

The professional world has changed significantly in recent years and social media now plays a large role in many industries, enabling you to network with others, find the best job opportunities, and build your professional reputation. ‘LinkedIn Influencers’ certainly didn’t exist 10 years ago!

LinkedIn is the key platform you should be using to kickstart your return to work. Start by updating your LinkedIn profile to reflect your current skills, experiences, and career aspirations. In fact, LinkedIn released a Career Break feature that enables you to give a reason for your time out of work on your profile, allowing you to choose from 13 different options, such as bereavement, full-time parenting, caregiving, and more. Make sure to fill this in and be 100% transparent with potential employers.

It’s also a fantastic platform to connect with past colleagues, industry professionals, and potential employers to help expand your network. Consider joining relevant industry groups and participating in discussions to stay updated on industry trends and developments. You might feel like you’re playing catch up to begin with, but you’ll soon be up-to-date!

3. Update your skills

Technology and industry trends change rapidly, especially after a long absence from the workforce. As such, after 10 years, you will more than likely require upskilling in order to compete with other talent. Invest time in updating your skills and knowledge by taking courses, attending workshops, or pursuing certifications in your field. This will help you bridge the gap between your previous experience and current industry requirements. Online learning platforms and local community colleges often offer flexible options that cater to the needs of parents, so you can gain formal qualifications alongside your family duties.

Anitha Samuel was working as a software developer in India before moving to Canada. Following the birth of her child and the COVID-19 pandemic, she found herself on a career break with limited options to return to work.

“Trying to get back into work after a career break had a lot of challenges. The industry is constantly evolving and that is something I had to keep up with according to the current market scenarios, which also made it extremely difficult to receive interviews. The pandemic was very isolating, and it was difficult to find my confidence pre-pandemic.

I came across the FDM Returners Program and felt this was the kind of opportunity I needed to help support me in gaining my confidence back and show my potential. So, without a second thought I applied and got selected!’

Anitha now works as a Full Stack Developer at an international bank.

4. Build your confidence

After a long break from work, it’s only natural to feel a dip in confidence and self-esteem. You might find yourself questioning your abilities or worrying about how employers perceive your skills and experiences. So long as you take the time to refresh your skill set, your past skills and experiences are also still valuable, no matter how long ago you gained them!

Building a positive mindset and self-confidence is key too. Remind yourself of your accomplishments, focus on your transferable skills, and seek support from your peers or professional network if needed. Employers are looking for confident candidates who can advocate for themselves and bring positivity to the workplace, so don’t let this hold you back!

5. Address the ‘mommy’ gap on your resume

Returning to work after an extended career break can create a large gap in your employment history. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘mommy’ gap or ‘motherhood gap’ for those who have taken time off work for parenting duties.

It’s crucial that you address this gap proactively on your resume by focusing on relevant skills and experiences gained during your time away from the workforce. For example, you could highlight any volunteer work or freelance projects you have done during your break, and the skills you’ve gained from these activities, such as organizational skills, problem-solving, or leadership. Not to mention, there are a plethora of parenting skills that make you better-suited for the workplace!

Alternatively, you can provide details on any courses or training programs you have taken to update your skills before returning to work. This will demonstrate proactivity and commitment to potential employers, which are both highly desirable traits in a candidate.

In addition to updating your resume, you should also prepare to answer inevitable questions about your career break during interviews.

6. Enroll on a Returners program

Many organizations now offer return-to-work programs designed specifically for individuals who have taken a career break. Many provide support, training, and mentoring to make the transition back to the workforce as seamless as possible. The training offered during a returns program can be invaluable on your journey back to work, helping you build on your existing skills while also equipping you with any new skills to fill any gaps.

Sophie (Zhaoyu) Li worked for a smart watch start-up in China before taking time off to raise her children. After a 7-year career break Sophie found it challenging to find a new role. She now works as a Full Stack Developer for an international bank and provides support for credit platforms.  

Speaking of her experience she said –

‘My job hunt was not an easy one. I had applied to many different companies and had originally applied for a junior position at FDM by mistake. I had over five years work experience as a developer and in the last interview they referred me to the Returner’s Program. I felt that I was respected by FDM and that it was a fantastic opportunity that I couldn't miss out on. 

The training was wonderful! The trainers were very supportive and very well prepared. The gap between my formal education and the reality of the workplace was apparent, this training was exactly what I needed.’

Read our top tips on how to succeed on a returners program, covering everything from your job applications to interview advice.

The FDM Returners Program

The FDM Returners Program is tailored to help those with a career break of over one year, including moms with career breaks of over 10 years! Our aim is to provide you with the skills and qualifications you need to make your return to work as seamless as possible, bridging any skills gaps and providing you with the best opportunities with our industry-leading clients. We also offer a range of wellbeing and learning support to help you along the way, such as our Employee Networks and mentorship programs.

Are you looking to kickstart your career again? Check out the FDM’s Returners Program or get in touch for more information.

About Returners Careers Team

The FDM Returners Team is a dedicated training programme to support career leavers return to work after an extended break. With intensive training through to placement with our prestigious clients and ongoing support, FDM has helped over 500 people get back to work after a career break. Currently we have over 250 enrolled on our Returners Programme.


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