For many of us the idea of a career break is invigorating. But it can be daunting too. What about our family commitments, the financial considerations or the impact on our careers? Here we take a look at the types of career breaks, and explode a few well-worn myths that could be keeping us from taking the plunge. Types of career breaks A career break is defined as someone who takes time out from their professional career with the intention of returning. And there’s no hard and fast rule about the length of time people can take. Career breaks typically last from between 1 month and 2 years, although many people take longer – if they’re raising a family, for example. A career break can be planned or unplanned, some of the reasons may include: Redundancy Travel Voluntary work Studying/training Caring Maternity/paternity/adoption leave Raising children Sickness- this is applicable to both physical and mental illness Myths about career breaks When you’re considering a career break there are some myths and barriers that may deter you. “I can’t afford it”  This is one of the biggest concerns. Being without regular pay for a period of time, and the implications this may have on your personal situation, can certainly cause sleepless nights. How much will it cost per month? Do I have enough set aside? Sufficient planning should reduce the impact of being unpaid for a length of time, but sometimes this isn’t always possible. If your career break hasn’t been planned then the financial implications can be more than a little daunting. CA Support can help you plan and budget your money to support you during this time. We can also help you research and claim any benefits you’re entitled to and in some circumstances we may be able to offer short term financial assistance. “My employer would never accept it” There are currently no government guidelines on career breaks; it’s at the employer’s discretion. However, many employers do have processes and procedures in place for those wishing to take a career break. In some cases, employers actively encourage it.  And even when no such procedures are in place, a term of unpaid leave can be negotiated, as employers are reluctant to lose experienced and valued members of staff. When approaching your employer, it may be helpful to have a formal proposal of your career break that outline the benefits to yourself and the employer, your flexibility about the best time to do this, suggestions for cover and the skills and experience you will gain that can be used on your return. “I don’t want a gap to affect my career” Many companies are impressed with employers that show initiative and take a career break, especially if they are articulate in expressing the benefits that they will gain. For example, taking care of a relative can show problem-solving skills and patience. During your career break it’s good to try and keep your knowledge up-to-date and utilise existing skills, as well as learning new ones. You could try volunteering. It’s is a great way to experience new cultures, make a positive impact and gain more knowledge. Benefits of taking a career break Whatever your reasons for taking a career break, a change from the normal day-to-day routine holds many unexpected benefits: it can produce an objectivity and perspective that’s only created from taking time away; it may reignite a passion for the career; offer opportunities to gain new skills and much more. From an employers perspective, a career break can often return refreshed, newly motivated and increasingly loyal staff. It really can be a win-win! Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 09, 2019

Today mentoring relationships are becoming more common amongst professional accountants. This blog will explore the benefits of mentoring and explain how to get the most out of having a mentor. What is mentoring? Mentoring is a one-to-one relationship between you and someone with extensive knowledge and experience in your professional field that can help guide, advise and support you to achieve your career goals.   Sometimes this relationship may be a formal one organised through your employer, or it could be through a mentoring organisation or via your professional institute. Alternatively, it may be more of an informal relationship that you have arranged yourself through your own network. There are advantages and disadvantages of an internal/external mentor so you need to consider who the right person is to help you succeed and then ensure that your mentor has the time to commit to helping you. Sometimes a workplace mentor may have a specific remit to support you with such as helping you keep focused with studies and experience to qualify whereas general mentoring in its purest sense is about your long-term career. Mentoring can take place in a range of ways both in person or remotely using virtual meetings or social media platforms. A mentoring relationship will typically involve the mentor playing different roles to support you by offering you guidance, advice and suggestions from their own knowledge and experience. They could support you with advice around technical skills development in your early career, leadership skills or business skills as you progress further in your career. They can also act as a sounding board, someone to think through problems, issues and challenges with as well as someone who may challenge and push your thinking, motivating you and holding you accountable for any actions. Do I need a mentor? Having a mentor can have many benefits. Working with the right mentor can help you by allowing you to: Seek advice from an industry expert who has the knowledge and expertise to give guidance Explore your career options, path and future objectives with someone in the field Discover your areas of strength and areas of development through feedback Discuss ways to overcome any barriers to your success Gain different perspectives when thinking through issues Improve your confidence and performance in your role Access the mentors network of contacts that could be helpful to your future career Gain the support and advocacy of the mentor for future job roles Choosing a mentor It is important you have some choice in your mentor. You’ll want them to be someone you can be open with and trust with your personal objectives, thoughts and feelings around your career, as well as being someone who inspires you. When choosing a mentor, you should consider: Whether the person has the relevant knowledge and experience to advise you in your career Whether you hold the person in high regards, someone you admire or who you find inspirational Whether you feel comfortable with the person’s style and approach Whether you feel you will be able to be open and honest with the person Whether you feel the person will treat information with confidence Whether you think the person will be able to offer you feedback to help you learn and grow; Whether the person has some experience in mentoring others You should spend some time meeting together to assess your answers to these questions and ensure you make the right choice before entering into a long-term mentoring arrangement. For mentoring to be successful you need to enter into it with clear objectives around what you want to achieve from it together with personal motivation and commitment. Mentoring can be a short-term relationship with regular meetings to support you through a particular challenge or career transition or it could be a long-term relationship throughout your career journey with fewer meetings spread out over a longer period of time. This has to be mutually agreed between both parties and regularly reviewed. Your career takes different routes and you may naturally reach a point where you are ready to work with someone else or they may feel they have supported you so far and are ready to watch you fly on your own. Find out more information about mentoring. Written by: Meg Burton Meg has over 15 years' extensive experience of delivering and facilitating development training in corporate organisations working with leaders and managers at all levels in a wide range of businesses. Meg is a qualified learning and development professional, qualified MBTI practitioner and Executive Coach. Meg has a warm enthusiastic approach, a passion for learning and a desire to make a difference to individuals. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 24, 2019

Many of us worry a career break can count against us on the CV or at interview. But, according to career and leadership coach, Olivia Lansberg, career breaks can enhance employability. The secret is knowing how to position your break to your, and your potential new employers, advantage.  Here are some of the ways to help you do it.  Writing your CV Your CV is a tool used to get you an interview. But there’s only a limited amount of time to impress. You need to ensure your break is framed in a positive and professional way; making sure all your time is accounted for. When writing your CV it’s important to identify your technical and transferable skills - but it’s critical to back these up with evidence.  So, for technical skills, describe the operational capabilities and knowledge you have to perform a specific job including processes, systems, tasks or specific sectors.  During work: “Saved €1m in 6 months” “Reduced unpaid debts from 60 to 30 days” During my career break: “Attended networking events” “Completed a training course in…” For transferable skills, describe the skills from all areas of your life that are relevant to work. Examples could be teamwork, leadership, communication, people development, project management, problem-solving, conflict resolution and so on. During work: “Initiated cross-function forum to build internal relationships” “Mentored a trainee accountant for 1 year” During my career break: “Raised 1K for my tennis club” “Managed my family through the grief process following the death of a loved one” Accounting for a career gap It’s important not to leave empty spaces on your CV. So mention the years you have taken a break, and the roles and responsibilities you may have had, in the same layout at the other jobs: -Job hunting following redundancy (2013-present) -Homemaker (1997-present) List any activities you undertook during this time that developed your technical skills as well as one transferable skill that you used with a relevant example.  During the interview Discussing your career break The interviewer’s priority is finding out whether you can fulfil the current role so you don’t go into too much detail about your break. There are various ways to approach the subject: some people prefer to remain silent until asked, while others like to demonstrate transparency and mention it briefly after they’ve made their first impression: -"As you will see, I have been out of the financial job market for 5 years and I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about it later" -"In the spirit of transparency, my 5 year career gap centred around raising a family" Always speak about your break with pride. And having mentioned it once don’t mention it again unless asked about it.  Dealing with tough questions Remember, the interviewer is not asking these questions to try and catch you out. They want an authentic answer to understand and build a relationship with you to see if you’re committed to and up to the job. So answer honestly. By doing so you’re demonstrating self-awareness.  Addressing your weaknesses Nobody is perfect and we all have weaknesses. Being able to address them in a positive manner during an interview is an excellent skill to have. In order to answer these questions it’s a good idea to get an understanding of your preferred style vs weaknesses. Preferred style: adjectives that describe how you best execute your skills. Are you a people person or task orientated or intuitive, for example?  Weaknesses may be the opposites of your preferred style. For example, you may be more task orientated rather than a people person, or intuitive rather than analytical. There may be gaps in knowledge, like an understanding of certain software or a lack of experience in influencing senior management. Or a dislike of doing something, like making rapid decisions - although you understand the importance of being able to do so. All of these can be categorised as weaknesses, but they’re not “wrong”. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 12, 2019

Although it isn’t always listed in the job specification, the ability to foster good working relations with those around us is an unwritten condition of any employment. But how can you make this happen? BY PAUL PRICE FCA Have you ever been part of a team pressed by a looming deadline, which nobody seemed to care about but you? You wanted to scream but instead, you bit your lip and carried the others. Or, worse, you let your emotions fly and although the others finally did step up, for weeks afterwards you were given the cold shoulder? Aristotle once said: “Anyone can be angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not easy”. Managing ourselves within a team under stress is perhaps the truest test of our emotional intelligence. So, what can we do to pass that test? Here are some suggestions:   Be open and honest with colleagues. When people know more about you, there’s less chance of them misinterpreting you; Be curious about the people you work with. Let them know you care; Be communicative. It’s better to over-communicate, or to ask the extra question, than to mistakenly assume; Never neglect the common courtesies of saying please, thanks and I’m sorry; If you disagree with the status quo, then challenge it – but do so at an appropriate time and in the right place. Challenge the issue, not the person, while respectfully acknowledging their point of view and their emotional response; Value feedback from others; receive it graciously, consider it seriously and test it practically. And let them know you’ve done so; Earn the trust of your colleagues by consistently acting on your word and by openly trusting those who do likewise; Be accessible; always keep an open mind, if not an open door; Only ever get mad on purpose. There are times when you should share strong emotions with a colleague rather than bottle them up – for example, when someone has let the team down badly without due cause. But if you are going to share such emotions, do so with social awareness and self-control so that the outcome is constructive; and Explore rather than avoid personality clashes. You may find yourself on a project with someone you can’t seem to gel with. If so, try to stand in the other person’s shoes to gain their perspective and establish some common ground from which you can focus and work on the task. When you see someone do a good job, say so... Having a healthy working relationship with those around us, although not in the job specification, is an unwritten condition of any employment. Regardless of how brilliant we are in our technical fields, if we can’t get on with our colleagues, we simply won’t progress. Lasting, trusting relationships don’t simply happen, they are caused. They derive from social awareness and social management, which in turn derives from self-awareness. The bridge from awareness of self to awareness of others is empathy. Empathy is that all-important skill on which all other interpersonal skills, including influencing, are built. Empathy, however, should not be mistaken for sympathy, just as emotional intelligence should not be mistaken for mere agreeableness. While sympathy separates us from the other, empathy, by having us stand in the shoes of the other, gives us a sense of how they’re feeling and so connects us to them. Standing in the shoes of the other doesn’t automatically mean we have to agree with them, but it allows us to act from an informed position with an awareness of the other’s perspective – an emotionally intelligent perspective.

Aug 30, 2018

That first role out of contract is a significant move for newly qualified members and as such has the potential to influence your longer term career plans. As I meet members on a daily basis I encounter the same sense of confusion, fear, trepidation and anxiety as they consider their first ‘qualified decision’. This is the ‘Sunday night fear’ on a far more extreme scale.  You have been supported and guided throughout your contract and so qualifying opens up new options, challenges and decision making opportunities for you. If you take only one thing from this article it should be that you can be proud of your achievements. Most of you will have completed a third level qualification, some of you will then have been fortunate to complete your Masters and then upon qualifying will have successfully completed one of the most challenging and demanding set of exams that you are ever going to come across. Bank that success!!  It is easy to dismiss your successes and immediately focus on the next job, company or challenge. However, by taking stock of what you have achieved, the sacrifices you have made as well as perhaps how much you have developed both personally and professionally along the way, it can strengthen your level of self-awareness and hopefully your level of confidence & belief in what you can achieve. Recognising & banking your success is a useful way of bringing you back to the times when you were most proud, happy, successful and relieved! And most important when you are facing into CV preparations, interview planning and job hunting – you have gotten this far you can achieve anything. This is not a glib one-liner but an empowering affirmation that can be useful in times of doubt.  What practical steps can you take to make the move less stressful for you? Choose your confidants - identify one or two people that you can discuss your options with carefully. Everyone will have an opinion but they may be biased so choose wisely. Slow things down and create an ‘ideal job spec’ based on all the elements that you have enjoyed in your career to date. You may not achieve everything but if you don’t aim high you are starting low and make it harder for yourself to claw back on that wish list. Spend time enjoying – yes enjoying- the job search functionalities of various job sites.  Keep an open mind on roles, locations, sectors and try not to limit yourself too quickly in the process. New roles and titles are being created all of the time so familiarise yourself with them. In practical terms, developing a professional CV that fully sells your skills, achievements and reflects your ability in language that ‘non-finance’ personnel can understand will help you greatly.  Visualising yourself in an organisation outside of the one you trained in will be crucial as you attempt to sell your skills and competencies to new hiring managers. You’ve started something new before so you are more than capable of doing it again as a professional. Focus on transferable competencies and adapting the ‘corporate speak’ that has become second nature to you to instead mirror the language used by the organisations you are attempting to join (use their job descriptions as a guide). These little practical steps can help to build your confidence level. Focus on the positives and use this next move as a positive step in the right direction with the right career. Ciara Tallon is the Careers Advisory & Recruitment Executive with Chartered Accountants Ireland and works with all newly qualified members to help with CV preparation, career advice and guidance on long term career planning. Contact Ciara on 01-6377 322 or email 

Oct 06, 2016