Do I need to take a more junior role after a career break?

Your question

I’ve held quite senior roles before a five-year career break. Am I right in thinking I’ll need to take a much more junior role to return to the workplace on a flexible basis?

Our answer

This is a common dilemma faced by many mums after a career break, and my answer is yes, and no – depending on your circumstances.

I would say ‘yes’ if taking on a more junior role is a stepping-stone to something else, or is 100% the right decision for you and your family.

Perhaps you need a better work-life balance now that you have children or you want to cut down on travelling, in which case a more junior role is a conscious decision based on your circumstances and it makes sense.

But I would say ‘no’ if your career break has knocked your confidence and you feel that you can’t get a decent, flexible job and therefore have no other option.

Four tips for returning to work after a career break

If you’re feeling the pressure of this dilemma, these four tips may help.

1) Don’t aim too low

You will inevitably get frustrated by applying for roles that you are massively over-qualified for and perhaps not even being shortlisted for as a result. Or even worse, landing such a job that you then find so boring and unfulfilling that you can’t wait to leave. This is clearly not a good position to be in.

2) Build up your career when the time is right

If you do decide to take a more junior role to get a foot in the door somewhere, remember you can always dial up your hours and career again as and when it’s right for you – perhaps when your kids are a bit older, start school or become more independent.

3) Use a more junior role to get ahead

You may want to strategically take on more junior or voluntary roles or short term contracts in order to get ahead. They can help to build up your network, bring your skills up to speed and have something more recent to include in your CV and talk about during interviews.

4) Search for new roles creatively and thoroughly

Remember that as many as 70% of roles aren’t advertised, and this is even higher for flexible roles. So make sure you undertake a really creative job search in order to seek out decent, flexible jobs. Tell your network too – at the school gates, on LinkedIn and everywhere else what you’re looking for. 

Don’t forget the three key elements of your job search

Whatever role you’re looking for, don’t forget the three key parts of the career jigsaw during your search – work out your lifestyle choices, what motivates you and the key skills you really enjoy using.

I often coach mums who have had big city careers who tell me, “Perhaps I’ll just work at my kids’ school because the hours and holidays will be great.” But the problem with this is that you are only considering the lifestyle element of the jigsaw and not considering your skills and needs. Ignore your own needs at your peril! 

Answered by our monthly career agony aunt Fiona Clark from Inspired Mums. If you have a question you’d like Fiona to answer, please email her at or call her on 07789 597209. 

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