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Keeping Your Skills Sharp During a Career Break

from the Gumtree Team

24 Jan 2024 4 mins read

Deciding to take a career break, whether for parental leave, a sabbatical, or to explore new opportunities, is often an important step in your professional journey. This period, while a change from regular work life, presents a unique opportunity for profound personal growth and skill development. It’s an ideal time to reflect on your career path, identify areas for improvement, and acquire new skills that align with your personal goals and the evolving demands of the job market. 

Whether you’re looking to return to your previous job or embark on a new journey once your career break is finished, staying up to date with your industry and enhancing your skill set can greatly enhance your employability and professional agility. In this blog, we’ll provide you with guidance and solutions to maintaining your skills while you’re taking a break from your career. 

Understanding the Importance of Skill Maintenance

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing professional landscape, the skills that are in demand can evolve rapidly. New technology, methodologies, and industry standards emerge continually, and staying ahead of these challenges ensures that you remain a competitive candidate in your field.

Additionally, actively working on your skills during a career break can significantly impact your professional growth and confidence. Continuous learning and skill development demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning—a quality highly valued in the modern workplace. It helps refine existing skills and develop new competencies that may open doors to unforeseen career opportunities. This approach to skill maintenance not only enhances your resume but also broadens your perspectives, making you more adaptable and innovative in your professional endeavours.

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Identifying Transferable Skills

Transferable skills are valuable across various roles and industries, providing a versatile toolkit that you can carry into any job context. Such skills often include, but are not limited to, interpersonal skills, communication abilities, problem-solving capabilities, and critical thinking.

To identify your transferable skills, start by reflecting on your experiences in your previous job or roles. Consider the tasks you excelled at or the challenges you enjoyed tackling. Skills such as effectively communicating with team members, managing time efficiently, or leading a project to success are highly valued in virtually every field. Transferable skills are the cornerstone of adaptability in the workforce, allowing you to seamlessly bridge different roles and industries.

For instance, if you’re shifting from a technical role to a managerial position, your problem-solving and critical thinking skills are as crucial as your technical knowledge. Similarly, if you’re moving into a new industry, your ability to communicate effectively and adapt to new environments becomes paramount.

Online Courses and Skill Development Programs

The rise of digital learning has made skill development more accessible than ever. Engaging in online courses or skill development programs is an effective way to acquire new skills or enhance existing ones during a career break. Online learning platforms offer a range of courses catering to various interests and professional needs, from technical skills in new technologies to courses in creative fields.

Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, and edX offer courses taught by industry experts and professionals from renowned institutions. The benefits of these digital learning platforms include:

  • Flexibility: They allow you to learn at your own pace and schedule, which is especially beneficial during a career break.
  • Staying Current: They provide an opportunity to stay up to date with the latest trends and developments in your field, ensuring your skills remain relevant.
  • Diverse Teaching Approaches: Each platform boasts a unique teaching approach, catering to different learning styles. Whether it’s through interactive lessons, hands-on projects, or engaging lectures, these platforms ensure an enriching learning experience.
  • Acquiring a New Skill: From learning a new language to mastering a single workshop in advanced coding, the scope for acquiring new skills is boundless. These courses provide the tools and knowledge needed to venture confidently into new professional arenas.
  • Certification and Credibility: Completing a course often comes with the bonus of a certification. This formal recognition of your new skill can be a significant asset in your professional portfolio, demonstrating your commitment to continuous learning.

These platforms not only provide the flexibility needed to balance learning with other responsibilities but also open doors to new opportunities and areas of expertise. And if you prefer in-person learning, consider attending conferences—they are invaluable in helping you stay competitive and prepared for your next professional endeavour.

Freelancing and Project-Based Work

Engaging in freelance or project-based work during a career break can be exceptionally beneficial. Not only does it keep you professionally active, but it also offers numerous opportunities to apply and expand your skill set. Taking on diverse projects exposes you to new challenges and learning opportunities, encouraging you to step out of your comfort zone and acquire new skills.

Getting Started with Freelancing: Securing Projects

Starting a freelancing journey can seem daunting, but with the right approach, it can be a rewarding and enriching experience. Here’s how to get started and secure projects:

  • Identify Your Niche: Determine what skills and services you can offer. This could be based on your previous job experience, hobbies, or any new skills you’ve acquired. Having a clear niche helps you target the right clients and projects.
  • Use Freelance Platforms: Sign up on freelance job platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, or Gumtree’s job listings. These platforms connect freelancers with clients looking for specific services. Make sure your profile is complete, and your portfolio is up to date.
  • Network Actively: Utilise your existing professional network and expand it by connecting with other professionals in your field. Social media platforms, industry forums, and professional groups are great places to start.
  • Pitch Your Services: Don’t hesitate to reach out to potential clients directly. Craft a compelling pitch that highlights your skills and how they can benefit the client. 
  • Start with Small Projects: Initially, take on smaller projects to build your portfolio and gain positive reviews. These early projects can lead to more significant opportunities and client referrals.
  • Set Competitive Rates: Research the market to understand the standard rates for the services you offer. Price your services competitively, but don’t undervalue your work.
  • Deliver Quality Work: Consistently delivering high-quality work is key to building a good reputation as a freelancer. Meet deadlines, communicate effectively with clients, and exceed their expectations when possible.

By following these steps, you can successfully embark on your freelancing journey, securing projects that help you maintain and enhance your professional skills during a career break.

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Setting and Achieving Skill Development Goals

While acquiring new skills and developing personally is exciting, the journey can sometimes feel daunting and uninspiring. It’s common to encounter moments of doubt or a lack of motivation, making it difficult to stay committed to your skill development goals. Here’s a consolidated approach to keeping your career goals on track and your motivation high:

  • Set Achievable Goals: Break your skill development journey into smaller, manageable goals. For example, completing a specific course in a month or mastering a new software in a few weeks.
  • Establish a Routine: Allocate specific times for learning and skill practice. Consistency in your routine builds discipline and ensures focused progress towards your goals.
  • Document Your Journey: Keep a journal or log of your learning experiences. This record of challenges, breakthroughs, and experiences offers a tangible reflection of your progress.
  • Regular Self-Assessment: Periodically assess your progress against set milestones. This could involve practical tests of new knowledge or reviewing completed projects to gauge your learning.
  • Celebrate Achievements: Take time to acknowledge and celebrate each achievement, big or small. Recognising these milestones boosts morale and reinforces your commitment to lifelong learning.

By integrating these strategies, you can ensure that your career break becomes a productive period of skill enhancement and professional growth.

Gumtree’s Skill Enhancement Resources

Gumtree Jobs offers a range of resources for individuals looking to enhance their skills during a career break. From part-time, freelance, or temporary job listings that provide real-world experience to a diverse range of courses and workshops, Gumtree is a one-stop shop for skill enhancement. These offerings include technical training and creative workshops, all geared towards aiding your professional development journey. In essence, utilising Gumtree’s resources is a strategic step towards staying competitive and reinventing your professional identity in today’s ever-evolving job market.

Remember, a career break is not a pause in your professional growth but rather a unique chance for development and exploration. Embrace this period as an opportunity to grow, learn, and return to the workforce with a refreshed perspective and enhanced skill set.