(This page may contain affiliate links and we may earn fees from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. See our Disclosure for more info.)
Considering returning to work after some time away but not sure where to start? We've got you covered!
Here you'll find great advice for anyone returning to the workforce.
You'll also find the best specific returning-to-work tips for stay-at-home moms and dads, older adults, and those reentering the workforce after a layoff, termination, or a challenging life circumstance.
We know there are many reasons for leaving the workforce at different times in life.
Maybe it's even taking the time for traveling to different parts of the world.
Sadly, perhaps the extended period away from the workforce was for a less exciting reason.
Whatever the cause of leaving, you are now facing a return to the workforce. You're both able and ready to work again.
But being away from the office and daily work, which was once second nature, may have you doubting your abilities to return to work and perform successfully.
Taking time away from work isn't career-ending for most people, though.
Also, realize even if your professional field has changed dramatically or if you no longer have licenses or certifications easily renewable, chances are you have excellent skills you can utilize in another profession.
Don't give up before you consider how pivoting to a new career may even be more exciting and rewarding than going back to your former line of work.
What Happened While You Were Away?
You might think it'd be difficult to forget what went on at work on a daily basis.
But if you've since been involved with new projects, were too ill to keep on top of the latest updates in your field, or if your focus shifted away from what you did at work – a lot might have happened while you were gone.
Chances are any technology you used is outdated or has gone through numerous updates.
When you realize all the potential changes, you may resist getting back up to speed. Or going back to work at all.
If you're thinking of applying at a former employer, you may find your previous boss gone and teams changed.
The company culture and business focus may have shifted in a whole new direction even.
While you may be ready to get your finances on track and earn a paycheck, you may find the return to work challenging emotionally.
There are some important things you can do, though, to reduce anxiety, boost confidence, and focus your energy before you start searching for new positions to rejoin the workforce.
Before Starting Your Job Search
When you first start considering a return to work, it's important to pause before rushing to send in applications or resumes. Take time to think about the type of work you want to do.
Consider the schedule work requires and the work-life balance related to specific careers and positions you want to pursue.
If you are going back into the field you left, you already have a good idea of the demands of that career and the impact on your life.
If you're ready for a career change, consider a variety of options.
Use tools and career self-assessments to help better understand your interests and how they align with your skillset.
You don't want to interview, start a new job and then realize it isn't something you want to do. Not if you can help it anyway.
Job hopping after a resume gap can be a red flag to employers. They may believe you aren't committed to working again or that you're struggling with the skills necessary to do the work.
Six Important Pieces of Advice for Returning to Work
When you've decided which professional field or career path you plan to reenter and the types of jobs you are going to apply for, step back and pause again.
There's still a little more work you need to complete before applying to increase your chance of landing a position.
The advice in these six areas should help make the application process much easier too.
You'll stand out as a strong candidate in an interview. And you'll be ready for what happens when offered a job and starting a new position.
1. Be Proactive.
You already know this may be a difficult transition, so do what you can ahead of time to be ready. For most people, returning to the workforce is a process.
You'll need to update (or create) a resume, write cover letters, and contact references before you complete an application.
Don't skimp on writing strong resumes and letters. And don't make the mistake of trying to hide your time out of the workforce on your resume.
It's also crucial to learn about advancements in your field. And improve or build new skills to help you be successful upon your return to work.
This could involve taking classes, earning certifications or licenses, or attending conferences as a means of professional development.
Check with libraries, community centers, community colleges, and local small business development centers for free or low-cost classes to brush up on skills or gain new ones.
Taking the initiative to advance your understanding as much as you can before applying for a position will also help “fill” any resume gap and impress potential employers.
2. Be Connected.
Even if you haven't had recent contact with your former colleagues or people in your field, this is the time to start reaching out.
Take someone you worked with for a coffee or lunch and discuss how things have changed. Ask how you might prepare to return to performing the work you did previously.
If you're thinking of changing fields, send a lunch invitation to someone asking if they'd be willing to speak with you about what they do. Be sure to ask what they both enjoy and dislike about their work.
If that feels too awkward, consider attending a conference or workshop in the field, which will put you next to people you can engage in conversation with.
Just remember the old saying – it's all about who you know. That hasn't changed. Talk to people because it still matters.
Don't forget to connect with others online too. Start by updating your LinkedIn profile or create one to highlight your work experience and skills.
If you have a Facebook page, you can update it, also. Letting your friends and connections know you are getting back into the workforce is essential!
You never know where job leads will come from. And remember, if you are emailing people and businesses about potential jobs, you need to check your email frequently and respond promptly.
If you haven't tried Twitter, you can create an account and search for businesses and connections there as well.
Search for potential employers and follow their accounts. Follow your alma mater and see if their career center is on Twitter sharing tips for entering the workforce.
And keep your eye out for any workshops you might be able to attend.
Even if you don't find much help, just getting used to being on the social media platform can prove beneficial.
3. Be Flexible.
As you get ready to start working again, consider being flexible in the kinds of jobs you'll seek. Be open to new challenges and experiences.
Being open to a variety of employment options may help you find a job meeting more of your needs as you return to work.
4. Be Prepared.
Similar to being proactive, it's critical to prepare for any interview you accept.
It's easier than ever to find information on specific companies. Take time to learn about their mission, customers, competitors, and details on how they do business.
Once you have information on the company, learn more about the specific role you are applying for. Check websites like Glassdoor to see if you can find reviews or salary information.
To prepare for the interview, create a list of potential questions they may ask you, and write out responses to those questions.
Then conduct a mock interview with a family member or friend. You can also record yourself responding to the questions to see how you appear during the conversation.
The more you practice, the better you will get – even if they ask different questions during your interview.
Try to have several examples of how you excelled in your prior work. Also, jot down ideas for areas where you need to grow in case you're asked,
Make sure you have a few questions of your own for the end of the interview. This will show the employer you've “done your homework” on the company. And that you're serious about the position you are applying for and returning to the workforce.
5. Be Confident.
Preparing, being flexible, and taking proactive steps will all help build your confidence!
The connections you make before an interview will help deepen your understanding of the company or position so you will be able to speak to it more confidently too.
Remember, you have skills and experiences not only from your time in the workforce but from the time you were away from work too.
Consider your talents, your ability to adapt to situations, and your perseverance. Be empowered by the value you can bring to the company.
It's alright to acknowledge what you don't know, but also be confident you can learn and apply new skills once you return to work.
Lacking confidence is one of the major stumbling blocks for people returning to the workforce. You don't want to come across as arrogant, nor as timid.
Finding the point where you can speak to your strengths assertively and positively is vital.
6. Be Humble.
There is a strong chance that people in leadership, those conducting interviews, and potential new coworkers may be younger and less experienced than you when you return to the workforce.
If you are interested in a job with the company, it is important to remain humble and not let their youth or new ways of doing things affect you.
Focus on what you can bring to a specific position and how you will benefit the company.
You may need to accept a lower salary and a lower-tier job than you wanted as you rebuild your career.
But as you gain more skills and perform as a team player, your prior experience and background will shine through.
Ask for feedback and make any necessary changes to improve your job performance. Your humility will likely gain respect and rewards from those in charge.
Tips for Those Returning to Work with Unique Circumstances
Tips for SAHMs and SAHDs
If you're a mom or dad who's been out of the workforce raising children, you may be behind in terms of keeping up with things such as advances in technology.
But when you return to work, you may struggle more with leaving your children and shifting from your parental role back to being an employee who is a parent.
Life will be different when you're back in the workforce. You'll now be balancing your career and family.
This may be a time when you decide to hire some help at home or learn to live with a little more chaos in the house.
Taking care of yourself and your health has to be a priority, however. You'll find it difficult to be a good employee and a good parent when not taking care of yourself.
For Older People Reentering the Workforce
In a few years, about 25% of the workforce will be people over the age of 55.
There are programs across the country, like Back To Work 50+, helping older adults access the training and support they need to get jobs.
You may likely be returning to work with people your age or older too!
Many companies are recognizing this trend. And they understand the importance of supporting older workers as they gain the skills necessary to perform specific tasks at work.
Some older people can change career fields entirely. Often pleasantly surprised by how happy and fulfilled they are in a new position.
Don't let your age be a barrier to returning to work. Ask for help where you need it, and seek out training and education on things you don't understand.
This is the “information age.” And if you can't find what you need, it won't take long to locate someone or something to help you learn it!
For Those Who Were Laid-Off or Terminated
When returning to the job market, you will likely need to acknowledge what happened at your former employer. But avoid any sign of sour grapes.
There is no need to offer up all the details of your departure, but you may need to explain simple facts. How you present them will make all the difference.
Abstain from making excuses or showing any bitterness, which would likely turn off any prospective employer. Instead, focus on what was good about your previous position.
Your achievements and any certifications or skills you gained. Also, speak to any lessons you learned and how the experience improved you overall.
It may be helpful to pencil out the facts regarding your termination in advance.
This will help ensure you don't highlight any negatives when asked about the circumstances of your departure from your last job. Badmouthing your former employer should be avoided at all costs.
Remember, you aren't the first person to ever be fired or laid-off. Dwelling on it or the circumstances surrounding your termination will not help you now.
What will, is focusing on your capabilities and why you are the best person to fill a prospective employer's job opening.
Tips for People Returning After Difficult Circumstances
If you've been out of work for an extended period because of a lengthy illness, an addiction, or because you've been caring for sick or elderly relatives – you may be excited to get back to work and into a routine.
Just keep in mind the pressure of a job may also cause extra stress you hadn't anticipated.
If you've been in any therapy, you might consider how work stress can affect your health and productivity.
Keep in contact with your physician or use your employer's EAP (employee assistance program) if you need to.
It may take more time for you to return to your prior “normal” regarding work, so seek progress rather than perfection.
The gentler you are on yourself, the more likely you are to build stamina and confidence in your abilities.
Some people are excited to return to work after an extended leave. They are finding positions and experiencing success right away.
There are plenty of others, however, who struggle with the idea of getting back into the same career field.
They wonder how they'll catch up on all the changes. Many will struggle to find any work or a job they enjoy.
Doing some preparation before starting a job search, however, and following the advice here should ease your transition back into work, helping you to be a confident, happy, and successful employee.
Your time out of the workforce may have helped you grow in ways you haven't even considered.
Starting a new position may be all you need to realize returning to work is an excellent step toward a stable future.