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Is it okay to take a lower-level job after a career break?

By Emily Gee | 06 November 2019


Over the course of your career, you’re likely to face a number of challenges. From transitioning from one role to another, to taking a career break when other life matters become a priority.

Although we may not think of it this way, career progression is rarely linear. Depending on the stage we are at in our lives; our priorities, goals and aspirations will vary widely. If you’ve decided to return to work after a long leave of absence, you might be wondering about your options—will you be able to get back into the swing of things or will you have to start all over again by taking a lower level role?

SkillsTalk will discuss some of the ways you can make the transition back to work much easier and why it’s okay to take a job that is beneath your level of experience.

Here are some points to consider:

5 points to consider when taking a lower-level job after a career break

  1. Return to work programs are designed to help professionals relaunch their careers.
  2. Erasing the gap is an important consideration.
  3. Negotiating opportunities with your employer.
  4. Humility and hard work go a long way.
  5. Be honest with yourself about what you want out of your career.

1. Return to work programs are designed to help professionals relaunch their careers.

man tying shoe laces for work

Some companies offer return to work programs known as “returnships” to encourage experienced workers to relaunch their careers. A returnship is similar to an internship, except you won’t be required to start at an entry-level position and there are plenty of opportunities for advancement.

Return to work programs cover a number of areas to help you successfully adjust to the pace of a modern work environment, such as learning new skills, building a network and enhancing your existing knowledge. Workers also receive additional training sessions and mentorship from other employees.

A returnship can be a great entry point into a company, where you will then have the opportunity to negotiate your position and return to a role that is better suited to your experience level.

Many Australian companies offer formal returnship programs including Deloitte, Macquarie Group, Ford Motor Company, Mastercard and Accenture.

2. Erasing the gap is an important consideration.

A gap in your resume is not the end of the world, and if you’re able to explain it to your employer you should have no problem finding a job after a long break.

But depending on the length of your career break, you may be out of practice and the confidence you once had in your previous role might be a little shaky. Therefore, it will be much easier to progress once you have been in the workforce and in the industry for some time. Michelle Friedman, founder of Advancing Women’s Careers suggests taking on a role that will help you erase your gap to help improve your confidence and put you back on track. 

3. Negotiating opportunities with your employer.

When you take on a returnship, your employer will be aware of your previous experience, which means they have the opportunity to revisit your level and request a compensation review in the future.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate the terms of your employment, especially if it means you will be able to take on new trainings and further your career in a shorter amount of time. Even if you have been out of practice, your experience is still valuable and your enthusiasm will certainly show your commitment.

4. Humility and hard work go a long way.

woman talking and negotiating

Sometimes it pays to stay humble and work towards your dream role by earning the respect and admiration of your colleagues and managers. After a 13-year career break, Tracy Shapiro landed a temp job as a finance coordinator at Lindt & Sprugli’s.

Over seven years, she was promoted six times and is now a financial controller. “I’ve done all the roles that everyone on my team has done and that gives me a lot of credibility with them…I know exactly what I’m asking them to do and they know it,” she says.

5. Be honest with yourself about what you want out of your career.

If you’re at an age close to retirement, or you’re simply no longer interested in pursuing the high-powered career you once longed for, you do not have to re-enter the workforce with the same ambitions.

That’s not to say you can’t find a job you love—you can find a job that’s both personally fulfilling and allows you to make time for other important things in your life. Consider what is important to you and base your decisions around that, rather than letting your pride get in the way of what you truly want.

Are you ready to return to work?

Upskilled offers a range of flexible online courses for professionals, no matter what your background or experience. Whether you need to brush up on your existing skills or learn something completely new, Upskilled can help you discover your passion and enter the workforce with the necessary skills and knowledge. Call today on 1300 009 924 or chat to one of their education consultants to learn more and find your dream career today.
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