Top tips for returning to construction after a career break
No matter how long your career break, or the reasons behind it, it can feel a little scary going back to work again. This article is intended to help you be clear about your new future, get your skills up to date, and find you an exciting new job.
Be clear about your construction career goals
Before you rush to search for available jobs, take some time to think about the bigger picture. What would you like your career to look like in five or even ten years’ time? This may feel daunting, but you don’t have to be specific down to the minute details. Would you like to be managing a team? Working on more eco-friendly or technologically advanced projects? Once you start to imagine the future, you can be clearer about your long-term goals and choose roles that will act as stepping stones to get you there.
Chances are your career break has given you a little time to plan or imagine what the future might look like – so put those thoughts to good use to plan your construction career goals carefully.
Refresh your skills and knowledge
Have a look at your previous skills and experience. Do they align with the roles you want to have now and in the future? Do they need refreshing? It’s ok if you need to update a qualification or two. You can take short courses, complete an apprenticeship, or sign up for a refresher on existing skills. Visit our useful qualifications page for more information.
The construction industry is ever-changing, which makes it exciting to work in. New and emerging skills are helping people push boundaries and work in meaningful roles, which you get to be a part of now you are returning to work. Take a look at the new qualifications and skills that are possible to see where you can develop your existing set.
Be specific in your job search
Look for roles that are as closely matched to your current skill set (once you are up to date for the roles you want) as possible. If you are too general, you may find roles that aren’t best suited to you. Equally, do not be disheartened if your dream role isn’t listed – some argue it doesn’t exist! Find a core set of roles in construction that you know you can excel in and make work for your abilities (and stick to them when you are searching).
Take a look at our A to Z listing of construction job roles and what they can entail.
Grow and use your network
Don't job hunt purely online. Use different methods such as word of mouth, keeping in touch with old colleagues and managers, and contacting organisations where your skills and background are relevant.
Even if your previous career was not in construction, chances are you still have a professional network. You will have friends who work, and their professional networks are another pool of potential job roles or knowledge. Get in touch with people who inspire you or have also taken a career break and ask them for advice.
It’s also a great idea to sign up to newsletters about the latest developments in the industry or for companies you might like to work for some day.
Hone your CV
You might think that a gap on your CV will ruin your career or look problematic in an interview. Try to see it as something positive that differentiates you from other candidates. If you have not been working for a long period of time, don’t attempt to hide it or feel you have to excuse it. A break may have allowed you to learn other skills or re-evaluate your career path.
Write down all the new skills you may have developed during your break and use your CV and cover letter to demonstrate how they relate to the job you’re now applying for. Did you take a course specialising in new technology? Did you do volunteer work and develop your leadership skills, which will help you to lead a team more effectively? Or perhaps you went travelling and learned more about another country’s infrastructure? Hone your CV so it best reflects your time both in and out of work.
Prepare for interviews
If you haven’t been to a job interview in a while, chances are it will feel even more unsettling than before, but don’t worry. You can practice beforehand with friends and family, online or simply by quizzing yourself at home.
Remember that interviews are a conversation – the people asking the questions may be assessing you for a job role, but you can also ask questions to see if the role and the company is the right fit for you, too. The questions will likely be a mix to assess your skills and discover previous experiences that might help you in the role. They will also explore your qualifications, which is why your CV is so important.
There are a lot of videos available on this topic on YouTube, including Indeed’s breakdown of an entire interview from start to finish. Try to be as ready as possible for each interview you attend.
Things you shouldn’t do when returning to the construction industry
There a few things to avoid when you are making plans to return to work after a break…
Don’t jump straight into interviews if you haven’t clarified what exactly you want to do within the construction industry. You need time to assess the industry and roles that may not have been possible when you were last job hunting. Do your research first, reach out to your network, then start thinking about the jobs you want to apply for.
Don’t underestimate yourself
Whether you’ve been away from work for 12 months or 2 years, getting back into the hiring pool can be nerve-racking. However, you should stay confident. You have a unique set of skills to bring to a job, and if you are confident, you will look more attractive to companies hiring. Don’t undervalue your previous work or the things you did while on a break – it can all contribute to a successful career.
Write down your skills and strengths on a piece of paper and keep referring back to this during your job search, to give you a boost. Ask friends and family to share their feedback on where your strengths lie too, because they will have a different perspective.
Don’t undervalue your strengths
No matter how you spent your break, there are skills you have developed. If you stayed home to raise children, they might be creative problem solving, an ability to multi-task and time management skills. If you have taken courses and completed training, you might have learned about a new technology or how to safely manage a project that involved tools or equipment. Don’t undervalue the strengths you can bring to your work.
Don’t give up
Believe in yourself and don’t give up if you aren’t immediately hired or seeing jobs that you want. This may take time, but it will be worth it when you are successful and preparing for your very first day back at work.
If you are looking for a job change, need a new career or want to know more about any of the training we can offer, get in touch with us on our social media:
Instagram - @goconstructuk
Facebook - @GoConstructUK
Twitter - @GoConstructUK
You can also register on the Construction Leadership Council's Talent Retention Scheme to promote your profile and CV to interested organisations.