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You've been looking after your kids for a few years, but now it's time to concentrate on your career. What do you do next?

If you've taken a break from your career to have children, you could be understandably anxious about getting back into the world of work. Maybe you're worried the world has moved on since you were last working, or maybe you're considering changing direction completely. We've got some advice to get you back in the game.

Spruce up your CV

Look at your CV to remind yourself of what you've already achieved, and consider the skills and experience you already have. How will these transfer to your new job search? If you're worried about any gaps in your CV, it's OK to say that you've been a full-time parent. Remember though, while it's tempting to say you're the 'CEO of your family' and that 'bum-wiping' is one of your specialities, employers probably won't be impressed! Instead, focus on skills you might have gained in the wider world. If you've been active on the parent council at school, helped at a play group or taken part in any community or charity work, include that on your CV - it all counts.

Update your social media and online presence

While you're getting your CV sorted, make sure that your social media accounts are also up to scratch. Update or create a LinkedIn profile, including a professional-looking photo, and testimonials from previous employers, if possible. You could also create an online portfolio or CV using sites like Wordpress and Wix for a small annual hosting fee, so that it's easier for employers to find you when you apply for jobs. And you never know, you might find yourself being headhunted on your way back from dropping the kids off at granny's house...

Consider refreshing your skills

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that your skills are obsolete or that you won't understand new technology or business principles. Think about how you can enhance your existing skillset to get the job you want. If you want a job in admin, maybe you need to brush up on Microsoft Office. If you're thinking of starting your own business, perhaps a certification in leadership or presentation skills would help. Any recent qualifications can boost your chances of employment, and even more importantly, your confidence.

Tailor your job search

There's no point in firing off CVs indiscriminately to every employer within a ten-mile radius. Instead, set email alerts for jobs that really match your skills and your needs. There are also lots of job sites specifically catering for working parents in need of more flexibility. The employers that advertise on these sites will already have flexible working arrangements in place, and some offer return to work programmes specifically for parents. So even if there isn't a job that fits right now, you'll know their working culture is family-friendly.

Use your connections

Just because you're not wearing a suit and giving out business cards doesn't mean you're not networking! That parent you see at the school gates might work somewhere that could use your skills, so don't forget to ask around or go for a coffee and a chat to pick their brains. You could also search Facebook for networking groups for mums in your area or organise something yourself. Also, if you're returning to a specific industry, keep your eye out for more official networking opportunities, such as meet-ups, seminars and skill sharing workshops.

Get interview-ready

It might have been a while since you were in an interview situation that doesn't involve being asked what your favourite LOL doll is, so the best thing to do is arrive prepared. As well as wanting to know about you, employers expect you to have done your research, be interested in what they're doing as a business and be up to date with what's happening in your industry. So start googling and prepare a few questions in advance. Also you can use the time management and organisational skills that years of parenting have given you to show up on time, dressed smartly and with a positive attitude. You've given birth, so there really isn't anything you can't handle.

Learn something new

Perhaps your old job just isn't doing it for you anymore. In that case, a career change might be in order. There are lots of opportunities to retrain, from part-time college courses to one-day courses that could take your career in a whole new direction. Visit a career advisor, or contact your local training centre and ask for a prospectus. You could be opening the doors to an exciting and varied career that you'll love.

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