Returning to work after taking time off can be difficult. Perhaps you took an extended career break in order to start a family, or to provide care for existing family members. You may also have decided to go traveling to broaden your life experiences and try out different things. Whatever your reasons, resuming your career where you left off isn’t always easy, and that’s especially the case if your career is in the IT field.
Don’t be left behind. IT by its very nature is fast moving. Technology doesn’t stand still, and neither do the latest trends and developments in design, security, analysis, social media and a host of related areas. Taking a significant time out means you run the very real risk of your skills and knowledge becoming out of date. And even if that isn’t the case, it may well be the perception of managers and other potential employers.
Limit your time off. Some say that if you’ve been out of the IT workforce for over 12 months then you’ll be seen as lacking relevant experience. According to this harsh but fair outlook, techies should never take more than six months off work if they want to return at the same level they left. After a year or more out you can still go back, but you may have to return at a lower level and relearn your job as you work your way back up.
One answer is to try to get back into the field sooner than you intended on a part-time basis. Look for employers who offer flexible working. An advantage of IT is that remote working from home is often feasible, perhaps combined with two or three days in the office. If you’re returning to work after having a baby, look for an employer with good childcare facilities and consider going back earlier.
Update your skills. In IT it’s vital that you keep your skills up to date and relevant. If you’re looking to return to work after a break you’ll need recent qualifications to prove that is the case. There are always new fields in which you can obtain an IT degree, as is clear from looking at this programs list, so even if you’re already well qualified there’s always room to expand your skill base.
Stay in the game. Keep in touch with your network of professional connections during your time off. Read relevant publications and join online groups, particularly on professional social media platforms like LinkedIn. Join in with current debates and sign up to industry newsletters. It might even be worth doing voluntary IT work for a local school or charity in order to have some recent experience listed on your resume.
Staying up to date gives you self-confidence even if it doesn’t result in a qualification. Webinars and podcasts can help you identify recent trends and tell you which names to drop. Proper retraining may be essential along with leveraging your network of people who know your work and believe in you. Above all, you must believe in yourself and the potential of your future career.