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Guess what? Career breaks to have kids don't erase your skills

Eva Mills

Returning to the construction industry after taking a long career break to start a family provoked mixed emotions for me, of both trepidation and excitement.

Finding the right opportunity wasn’t straightforward. I was unsure how things would play out after so long out of engineering consultancy. However, it’s worked out brilliantly.

Yes, it’s taken some effort to get back up to speed on the technical knowledge – a few areas come to mind, such as BIM, Revit, GSL and BG6. But I’ve now been working at Hydrock for two years and have realised that my career break to have children didn’t deprive me of the critical skills needed for my role.

A different conversation

Earlier in my career it was a constant battle trying to fit in and make a mark in a male-dominated industry. Our industry will continue to be male-dominated for a long time to come.

However, I’ve been increasingly encouraged, in the words of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, to ‘lean in’ and share my views. As a result, I’m starting to feel positive for the industry as a whole that more is being done to enhance our people culture and emphasise work-family balance.

When people look to return to the industry after a career break, it’s important that employers recognise their experience and look at how their backgrounds complement the skills of existing teams. Above all, it’s important that returners are heard, rather than dismissed.

“The more you seek reassurance, the more you build up pressure and create self-doubt”

It’s been great to be back in a collaborative team environment where everyone pulls together to solve problems. If you have the ability to appreciate what motivates people, understand how they are wired and establish what really matters for them, these skills never go away.

Advice for ‘returners’

The one piece of advice I’d give to others preparing to return is to remember all the things you could do before and trust in yourself that you can do them again.

Don’t overthink it. The more you seek reassurance, the more you build up pressure and create self-doubt. You achieved a certain level of skill before, so there’s no reason why those skills have disappeared.

Hydrock is the first company where I haven’t pushed myself to fit in. In fact it is quite the opposite; they have welcomed me for bringing my established skills to a different situation to offer a new perspective. I am proud to have returned and to be able to make Hydrock’s culture even more inclusive.

Eva Mills is an associate director at Hydrock

Be inspired

CN’s Inspire Me campaign aims to support women into senior roles across the industry.

Our next free workshop will take place on Wednesday 21 November in London – register your interest at


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