There’s definitely a back-to-school feeling in the air once summer comes to an end, as our community returns from holidays to get busy with school, work and career plans. For those of us with family commitments, or who have perhaps moved to the region with a spouse or to start afresh, getting back into work after a break can be a daunting task. To help you find the right role and navigate those first few weeks in a new job, Sarika Sabherwal and Priya Mitchell of PCA, in conjunction with Hopscotch.work, share six tips for returning to the workforce with a spring in your step.

Tip #1 Build confidence by assessing your strengths

Take a moment to critically evaluate the positive impact you had in your last role – this might include the successes you delivered and any challenges you overcame. By reconnecting with your strengths, objectively and factually, you can begin to see how you can carry those wins with you into a new role, so you can hit the ground running. This exercise is also essential mental preparation for articulating your value at the interview stage.

Tip # 2 Build your personal brand

One of the best ways to articulate your personal ‘brand value’ proposition, particularly at networking events and interviews, is to tell a compelling, concise and memorable experience story. Use the STAR model – describe concisely a relevant Situation you have previously encountered, the Task or challenge that you had to overcome, the Action(s) you took – as the hero of your story – and finally, the Result that was achieved. Make sure you talk about the outcome in all its glorious detail, highlighting your role.

Tip # 3 Switch on your performance mind-set in interviews

Switch on from the start: sit up straight, breathe slowly and deeply and smile! Listen to what the interviewer is actually asking. Think about your answer and take a moment to breathe before offering your response. Don’t rush. Keep your answers short and relevant and, importantly, know when to stop talking. Trust you have said enough. It is also an opportunity for you to ask some clarifying questions about the role or organisation, so you can determine if they are a good fit for you.

Tip # 4 Make the most of networking opportunities

Like many of us, you may not be a fan of networking events, however, they are an essential part of getting back to work and building your network as your career progresses. You must be proactive and targeted in your approach, even before the event. Ask event organisers if you can see the delegate list to ensure the event is one that is relevant to you, and so you can seek to meet specific individuals. Make an impact at the event by adopting a ‘host mind-set’ – caring for others – and focusing on ‘being interested’ in others, rather than worrying about ‘being interesting’. Really seek to learn about the people you meet by asking expansive questions that start with ‘what’ or ‘how’ – we all tend to remember people who are interested in us and are willing to listen to our stories and experiences.

Tip # 5 Prepare well for the interview

Ok, so this one might sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many people don’t cover the basics. Are you prepared? Have you done your homework? Do you know enough about the target organisation? Have you thought about your experience stories? Have you thought about questions you might be asked, or would like to ask? Try walking through the interview in your mind, step by step; focus on how you can stay in control – this can include looking at your posture, vocal pace and volume. And don’t forget, an interview is a chance for the other person to simply get to know you, so make sure you showcase your best attribute beyond your resume – you.

Ti[ # 6 Develop the resilience to stay in – and enjoy – the game

World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck studied mind-set in the context of how we deal with failure. Inevitably with the interview process, we will all experience some knockbacks from time to time; after all, finding the right fit does not – and should not – come easily. Carol talks about developing a ‘growth mind-set’, encouraging us to recognise that our intelligence, skills and abilities are far from fixed. By stretching and challenging ourselves we can develop all of these areas. She advocates having a passion for learning and embracing new things, rather than being fixated on getting things right and seeking approval. Whatever the outcome, you can always learn something positive from your experiences, and this insight will contribute towards you getting the right job at the right time.

A helping hand from Hopscotch: For more tips on getting back into the workforce, check out Hopscotch’s program of Career Comeback events and hear tips on gaining confidence from Hopscotch’s Helen McGuire