Stepping back into a senior exec role after time away

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Barron Williams

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Stepping back into a senior exec role after time away can be a challenge, and there are many reasons why we might decide or have to take an extended career break such as redundancy, gardening leave, maternity leave, illness, or time off to travel.

However, whilst stepping back into your career after some time away can be incredibly challenging, it is not something we should be afraid to do. 

With age comes wisdom, but the challenge of finding a new role often becomes much harder the older we get too, and research by Legal & General found that:

“Among the 177,000 over-50s made redundant annually since 2018, 20,000 are estimated to have left the workforce altogether.”

When it comes to returning after maternity leave, a report by the recruitment platform TotalJobs in association with the Fawcett Society highlighted that:

“More than 80% of working mothers in the UK experienced trouble returning to work after maternity leave.”

Re-entry anxiety is to be expected but with the right mindset, strategy, and support, it is possible to secure a new senior exec role after an extended career break.

Returning to a career after time away, will, of course, present challenges, but they are not insurmountable. 

The level of difficulty will largely depend on various factors, including the length of time away, the reasons for your hiatus, industry dynamics, personal circumstances, and your readiness to re-engage in a senior leadership capacity.

We have some steps we think you need to consider before you make the transition and to ensure that when you do it is a smooth and stress-free one:

1. Assess your Skills Currency 

Industries evolve, so staying up-to-date with the latest trends, technologies, and best practices is essential.

Depending on the length of time away, you may need to invest in updating your skills and knowledge to align with current industry standards and expectations. 

Evaluate and identify any gaps where you need to update or acquire new skills to align with the current trends and demands.

2. Stay Informed

Stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends, market dynamics, and changes in your sector. 

Attend relevant conferences, workshops, and seminars to reconnect with like-minded professionals and stay informed about the latest industry developments.

3. Networking

Reconnect with your professional network by attending industry events, joining online forums, and using social media platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with good people in your field. 

Networking can also open up opportunities and provide insight into the current market climate, so maintaining your professional networks and relationships is essential. 

If you’ve been away for a while, then rebuilding and re-establishing these connections will require time and effort. However, leveraging your existing network and actively seeking opportunities to expand, will help to ease the transition back in.

4. Update your CV and LinkedIn Profile

Update your CV to reflect your current skills and experiences and optimise your LinkedIn profile with a professional photo, updated work history, and a well-crafted summary that highlights your achievements to date and aspirations.

Comment and post on social media – let people know that you’re there!

5. Professional Development

Consider investing in professional development courses or certifications that are relevant to your field. 

Demonstrate your commitment to getting back in-sector. Continuous learning will only enhance your credibility when seeking new senior exec roles.

6. Seek Mentorship

Identify mentors or advisors who can provide guidance on navigating the current industry landscape. Knowledgeable, well-connected senior execs and non-execs are ideal. 

They can offer valuable insight, share their experience, and provide you with essential support as you pursue your route back in.

7. Address your Employment Gap

Address the employment gap in your CV and be honest about why you took the break. If you did some consulting or short-term work, paid or unpaid – let people know that you were active.

Clearly articulate the reasons for your time away and turn any negatives such as redundancy into a positive. Emphasise how the experience has contributed to your overall skill set.

Any market perceptions are best-tackled head-on. If potential employers have concerns about your readiness to step back into a senior executive role after a hiatus, then address their concerns.

Your past success is a great indicator of future performance. 

Proactive communication, showcasing relevant experiences and achievements, and demonstrating your commitment to professional development will help to mitigate any perceived risks.

8. Tailor Your Job Search

Be strategic in your search and target organisations that align with your skills and values. 

Target sectors, segments and organisations that will see immediate value in your experience.

Tailor your application (CV and cover letters) to showcase how your past experiences make you a valuable candidate.

9. Highlight Transferable Skills

Emphasise transferable skills gained from your relevant previous experiences. Focus only on the requirements of the role that you’re applying for; the ones the hiring organisation prioritise.

Demonstrate leadership, strategic thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving. These skills may be seen as a given but highlight them and give examples (size of teams managed, for example).

10. Consider Interim or Project Roles

If possible, consider taking on an interim or project role that aligns with your career aspirations. Target organisations that would value your knowledge and experience immediately.

This can help you gain recent experience, build relationships, build confidence, and prove your capabilities to potential employers.

The interim market has undergone a significant change in recent years but if you can reach organisations in sectors where you have an established reputation, you will have an advantage over established interims who work across sectors.

11. Be Open to Feedback

Actively seek feedback during interviews and networking interactions. 

Use constructive criticism to refine your approach and demonstrate your commitment to personal and professional growth.

In Summary…

Returning to a senior exec role after time away can be personally challenging. It may involve adapting to new routines, managing a more complex work-life balance, and navigating potential feelings of imposter syndrome or self-doubt. 

Don’t be afraid to seek support from mentors, coaches, or peers who can help you navigate the transition.

New employers will expect you to demonstrate your value and how you will contribute to their organisation. 

Highlight past achievements, showcase your leadership, and articulate your vision for their long-term success to instil confidence in your ability to deliver results.

Ultimately, stepping back into a senior exec role after time away requires a combination of self-awareness, preparation, adaptability, and resilience. 

By addressing potential challenges proactively and leveraging your skills, experiences, and networks, you can position yourself for success.

Just remember that the job market and industry landscape may have shifted during your time away, so adaptability and a proactive approach are essential. 

With persistence, continuous learning, and a strategic approach to your role search, you can increase your chances of successfully stepping back into a senior exec role after an extended break.

Finally, remember that you’re not alone. There are many in a similar situation – right now. It is simply part of modern corporate life, so address it as you would any other business issue.

If you are looking to work with a team dedicated to helping you find the right people to fulfil those crucial roles for your organisation, please use our Client Upload Form or call us today.

If you are looking to find or apply for a new role, then please feel free to Upload Your CV or call us for an exploratory conversation.

And if you’re not already, please don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Barron Williams

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