Whether you've had to quit your job to look after an elderly relative, become a parent overnight, or decided to abandon the rat race for a year in Costa Rica, you'll need to be job hunt ready for your return. Before you set out on your job search, check out our other returning to work pages to help you do your research in understanding what you need to re-enter the workplace, assess whether you have everything you need, and if not, upksill to get yourself back on track. 

However, if you've everything in place, the next thing you'll need is to dust off your CV and as someone returning to the workplace, you may want to structure it slightly differently to display everything you've gained from your time away. 

Red notebook with the words You Are Your Only Limit on a coffee table

Returning to Work Cover Letter

The hardest thing to get right when returning to the workplace is the cover letter, as it’s the first experience the company will see of you. Why would they hire you over someone who is up to scratch and has all the right experience?

This means that the cover letter has to take the hiring manger on a journey to get to know a bit more about you as well as why you are the right person for the role and deserve an interview. It also means that it has to include different elements from the cover letter that you’ll be used to writing. 

Here’s what you need to include:

1. A short outline your previous career.

‘I’ve spent ten years of my career as a publishing rights manager in boutique publishing houses, and am looking for a new challenge.’

2. Acknowledgement of your career break and how you have kept up-to-date with your sector and skills 

'Since 2013, I have been looking after my two young children. With them both now in full-time education, I'm thrilled to be re-entering the workplace, ready to resume my career. In the last couple of years, I have attended the Booksellers Associaton Conference, keeping up-to-date with the changes in the industry and, as acknowledged in my CV, have improved my front-end development capabilities through a number of advanced courses in CSS, Javascript and HTML.'

3. The transferable skills that are relevant to your new role.

‘I am at ease with taking on projects and coordinating the publication process, as well as managing a team to work to tight deadlines. My previous role also involved developing new contacts and agreeing rights, which has led me to be able to communicate - both orally and in wiring - with a diverse set of people, for example those who do not have English as their first language, as well as negotiate and persuade them to take on our authors. As the manager, and a parent, I am adept at managing my own time and independently working towards the goals of the company.’

4. Demonstration that you’ve done your research. That you understand what the company does, what it is trying to achieve over the next few years, both in the position you are applying for and the company as a whole, what they might be missing, how you are a good fit and what you can do for them.

‘I believe my experience of teamwork, planning and working to deadlines, oral and written communication, initiative and persuasion stand me in good stead for the role of Publishing Rights Manager within Company X. Especially of interest to me is your goal to implement an equality and diversity agenda to promote and nurture talented people of colour. I am especially accustomed to working with people from African and South East Asian backgrounds, and am excited about putting this knowledge to good use. I was also the Mental Health ambassador in my previous position - a role I would like to continue and advocate with formal policy in my new position.’

5. Highlights of your track record within your previous role, showing that you are motivated, and can take initiative.

‘My career path within the publishing industry demonstrates that I am a fast learner and at ease with taking on new projects and responsibilities that are outside my comfort zone. During my time in my previous role, we were awarded Independent Publisher of the Year and I was proud of the contribution I made to this team - we released publications into 12 new countries that year.’

How to write a career change CV

Returning to Work CV

When showing potential employers that you are returning to the workplace, you may want to structure your CV differently, highlighting what skills and experiences you've gained during your years away alongside your previous skills, education and employment history. You’ll also want to focus on what you are looking to achieve in a new position, and a theme for your previous work experience.

Here’s the structure to use when formatting your returning to work CV - however, depending on your skills, experience and the position you are looking to enter, you may want to tinker it to suit your needs. 

Contact information

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • A LinkedIn profile and any other professional social media handles

Profile

This 1-3 sentence statement highlights your key skills and experience. It’s an especially great way to show off your transferable skills and you can also use it toexplain what you've been doing during your time away from the office and what you are looking to achieve when you return. 

Skills

In a returning to work CV, you can emphasise your skills first, and this includes both transferable and technical skills. Don't be afraid to use examples from inside and outside the workplace to show employers where you’ve gained these skills and how you’ve used them. 

Technical skills

HTML, CSS, JS:

  • Built an online personal portfolio and resume website using HTML, CSS, JS.
  • Created an online JS/jQuery quiz game that takes multiple answers and shows results to the user.

Transferable skills

Sales:

  • Boosted sales at Company X for the most underperforming product by 40% by developing helpful and instructional material for prospects. 

Work experience

The positions, responsibilities and accomplishments you’ve had in your roles so far. Remember for each role to include your title, company name, location, and dates of employment. When returning to the workplace you can list ‘relevant experience’ first followed by ‘other work experience’, and you don’t even need to include all your work experience if you think that it’s going to distract the reader. Remember that what you've done during your time away from paid employment is equally as important, especially if it directly relates to the position you are applying for.

Education

How much education you mention depends on how long you’ve been working and the level of education you’ve received. Remember to include your institution, grades earned, the year you completed the course, and any awards you received. If specific information is particularly relevant to the job you are applying for then you can add a paragraph about this as well. You can also mention short and online courses, and professional development, especially if this has been done in your own time during your years outside the workplace, as employers always like to see individuals who can learn independently and are motivated to do so.

Other

You might also want to add (if not mentioned elsewhere in your CV) any awards you’ve won, any memberships of professional bodies you belong to or any hobbies you do, especially if it relevant to the job you are applying for.