Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Taking a career break can raise a red flag with recruiters. It's not fair, but it is sometimes the reality of job searching after an employment gap. One effective way to get around this return-to-work bias is to network, network, network
Written by Dr Emma Waltham | Maternity Returners Expert
Have you ever thought about using networking to find a job? It really can be such a powerful way of improving your chances of getting your dream job, particularly when you're returning to work after a break or you’re trying to make a career change.
Unconventional? Oh Dear...
When you’ve got an employment gap or your recent experience is different from the job you’re applying for, then the reality is that it often raises a red flag with the recruiter. They spend just a few seconds scanning CVs. If yours doesn’t have conventional, linear experience, annoying and unfair as it is, you are more likely to end up on the ‘no’ pile.
"If yours doesn’t have conventional, linear experience, annoying and unfair as it is, you are more likely to end up on the ‘no’ pile"
There is something you can do about this though: networking. It really will help overcome this bias. If you’ve got a relationship with the recruiter already, or someone can recommend them to you, then it’s much more likely you’ll end up on their interview pile.
So, how can you use networking to help you find a job?
Talk to People
Get in the habit of talking to friends, family, people at the school gates, the person you’re sat next to the hairdresser, anyone really – you never know if they might be able to help or know someone who can. If you don’t feel you know them well enough just to throw a ‘Hey, I’m looking for a job – any advice?’ into the conversation, ask them what they do at work. Most people will tell you about themselves then ask the same question back. Then, tell them you’re what you’re looking for and ask them if they know of any openings or can put you in touch with someone who might be able to help you.
"You never know if they might be able to help or know someone who can"
If you’re not using this platform, then sign up now, because over 24 million people are on LinkedIn in the UK and that number is growing all the time. I’ve written a blog post on setting up and making the most of LinkedIn to network, so check that out if you need help.
You can use LinkedIn to research who's working where and make connections with them. Build a relationship with them online and ask them if you can send them your CV because you're interested in working in their organisation or sector.
There are groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that specialise in various sectors or flexible working opportunities, for example. Search for groups of interest and join to get in on the conversation. Recruiters use these groups too, as they’re free advertising, so let the group know what you’re looking for and look out for vacancy posts from others.
Even if they don’t have anything suitable at the moment, if you’re interested in particular organisations, have a word with the HR person representing the company and make sure you follow up with them afterwards, by connecting on LinkedIn and saying you’d love to hear of any future openings relevant to your career of interest.
There are multiple ways you can give yourself the best possible chance of finding that job you’ll really love. Some of these might be outside of your comfort zone, so just start with one, and when you begin to feel comfortable with it, move on to another.