Restarting Your Career After a Career Break

One challenge I see a lot of people breaking into the business analysis field face is how to get back into the role after a career break. You may have taken a career break for an extended maternity leave, to care for an aging parent, or simply to travel the world.

The good news is that business analysis skills are relatively timeless, and so re-entering the workforce after a career break is definitely possible! But you need a strategy, and approach, and also a good dose of confidence.

That’s what this video is all about.


Hi, my name is Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap. Today, we’re going to talk about what to do when you’re returning to the profession after a long career break. We’ve had people in our community and in our courses who have taken an extended maternity leave while their children were young, who took time off to care for parents, who just took a leave of absence from work to travel or do something fun with their lives, and now, for whatever reason, feel like it’s time to go back. It’s time to restart their career and get back to where they were professionally.

I want to share a few tips. This often can feel like you’re starting over all over again, like you have to start from the ground up. What you want to do is leverage the strengths that you have, the experience that you have and bring all of that forward into this “restart.”

Let’s jump in with some of the tips.

Career Break Tip #1 – What Do You Want?

The first thing I want you to do is get clear on what it is you want. So often we set goals based on what we think is possible. We might think, “I want a job that’s kind of like what I was doing in corporate before I left five years ago. I want to be doing something like that.” We use that as the frame for our goals. Then maybe it doesn’t inspire us. Maybe you want something different.

Even if you have not been in a professional role for the last few years, you have grown as a person. You have been exposed to new environments, new people, new ideas, new ways of living, new everything.

Give yourself permission to ask,

  • “What do I want?”
  • “What do I really want out of this next step?”
  • “What priorities have shifted for me?”
  • “What’s important to me about how I show up to work?”
  • “Do I want to work part-time, do I want to work full-time, do I want to work from home, do I want to have that flexibility?”
  • “Is it more important that I’m just craving being back in an office with a regular schedule?”

Whatever that looks like for you. Nothing is wrong there. Everything is right, but it is getting in touch with what you want and what you want that next step to be.

Career Break Tip #2 – Start Networking

Now, start networking. Start going to the places where people in those kinds of roles would be showing up. Within business analysis, this is your local IIBA® chapter meetings. Go. Start talking to people. Learn what’s happening in the profession. Rebuild your community.

Start reaching out to your past colleagues and let them know that you’re thinking about restarting. You’re thinking about getting back into a role or a similar role to how they worked with you before. Would you be able to call on them as a reference, if needed. “By the way, do you happen to know any opportunities of people that are hiring things that you’ve seen me do well at in the past?”

It never hurts, it’s always valuable to kindle and rekindle connections. Start on LinkedIn and look at people in your past companies and start reconnecting and engaging with them.

Career Break Tip #3 – Experience and Skills

You also want to determine, for that goal that you want, what experience and skills that you have that gets you on that path. What I see people do that gets them stuck is they look at, “Well, for the last three years I’ve been doing this, and this is nothing like where I want to be.” They get stuck thinking about what the last three to five years looked like instead of going back through the whole trajectory of their career and bringing forward all that skill, all of those skills of all of that experience.

The reality about being a business analyst is that your skills are relatively timeless. Your ability to solve business problems and your analytical thinking, the structures that you would use to do that kind of work, the way that you handle complex communication challenges and navigate organizational change and resistance, that skill set does not go away.

You may have even had experiences since you left corporate that make you even better at that, that you have to handle some challenging negotiations or resolve some conflicts within your family, or negotiate your new job role, your new role for your life, whatever that looked like for you. You are the sum of everything that you did before and all the enhanced experiences you had during your “break.” Bring all of that forward.

With that in mind, there might be some nuances. There are tools; maybe you’ve never worked in an agile environment, and that’s becoming the norm. Maybe the tools that are out in the marketplace are a little bit new, so you can refresh your skills or you can broaden and add something new to your skill set, but you don’t have to feel like you start from scratch.

Career Break Tip #4 – Be Ready to Hit the Ground Running

What employers do want to know, though, when they’re hiring a new employee after a break is that you’re ready to hit the ground running. You need to have that inner confidence that you could pick up your role in that same capability, in that same capacity that you did before you left corporate (if you want to go back to that same kind of role).

You have to be fresh in that experience. If you don’t feel like that ability to hit the ground running, if you don’t feel like you have that, that’s where training can help. Training that gives you that refresh that helps you, “Oh, right, I did this, I did that, I did this.” It gives you that structure to apply. It gives you the awareness, the re-emergence in industry-standard best practices. This is where volunteering to do some business analysis in an organization can help as well. Look at the non-profits or the organizations, friend groups.

We were in a session of The Business Analyst Blueprint® program where we were talking a lot of participants are choosing event management as their project of choice. We were like, “Oh my gosh, I could have totally put an event management process together for my weekly girls’ group.” I could have used that as an opportunity to practice some process analysis and to refresh my skills so that I had that confidence that comes with, not that I did that five years ago, but I just did it yesterday. That’s where volunteering can help fill that gap and it can also give you something to put on your actual resume as work experience.

Career Break Tip #5 – Get Your Story Straight

Finally, one last tip, and that’s just to get your story straight. People are going to ask you about your break. That’s going to come up in an job interview. It might even come up as the very first thing on a phone interview as part of a phone screen.

Don’t just hope you come up with a good answer. Have a clear explanation and don’t apologize for it.

“I took time off to do this and now I am ready to be back in the workplace. Here is what I’ve done to make sure my skills are current. Here are the kinds of things that I’m ready to do and I’m really looking forward to getting back in because…”

And really sell the “because.” This is going to help them feel confident that you really want this, that you don’t want to stay on your break, and that you’re ready to hit the ground running.

I just will share one last thing. There was one BA that I hired after her career break. I will tell you how she showed up in the interview. It was so present, her experience. We were talking about all of the things that she had done as a business analyst, and she had taken a long time off to care for her aging parents, and I didn’t even realize it.

I feel like I’m a pretty smart person, and I’m pretty insightful. She talked so clearly about her experience doing business analysis work as if it were yesterday. She had nuances to it of what this person did and how this person did it, the challenges she faced, and how she overcame it that it didn’t even occur to me to ask her, “Well, when did that happen?” Because it felt like it had happened last week.

If you can bring that sort of presence into your interview with the kinds of experiences that you’ve had, you might still get the question, but it’s going to come in a different light. They’re going to see you as ready to hit the ground running, ready to be the successful business analyst you know you can be.

What’s Next?

If you do want a career refresh, I have a quick free training for you. Just click below, it’s called Quick Start to Success as a Business Analyst. We’d love to have you join it. We go through the key skills to be successful as a business analyst, what the business analysis process looks like, and gives you a deeper insight into the profession. Great way to start to hit that refresh button so you can start rebuilding your business analyst career starting today.

Again, I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap. We help mid-career professionals start business analyst careers. I’m so happy to be helping you today.

>> Get Your Quick Start to Success

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