There are many reasons why someone may need to take an extended leave from the work force–from pregnancy and parenting to health issues and continued education to reanalyzing one’s career.
But once you decide to re-enter the work force it may not be that easy. But there are steps you can take to make the transition back go smoother.
First, realize you still have a lot of value. “Start by quantifying the things you’ve been doing during your period of time off. Although you may not have gotten paid for your work, try putting a price tag on it to realize its value,” notes Laurie Battaglia, Workplace Strategist and Career Coach with Living the Dream Coaches, LLC in Scottsdale, Arizona.
You will have to formulate a reason as to why you left your industry. “Start creating a story to ‘explain’ why you left, and crucially, why you want to return and what value you believe you bring. No matter how distasteful it sounds, it’s your responsibility to ‘prove’ yourself with colleagues and mentors who may have stayed in the field; they want to know what you should do for them,” warns professional coach and social media expert Carlota Zimmerman of The Creativity Yenta. “At the beginning, it’s probably going to be hard to concoct this story, and this is a great time to reach out to old friends and colleagues in the industry for networking over coffee and cocktails. An intelligent lunchtime conversation with an old colleague in your industry can easily turn into an informational interview, wherein your colleague remembers that a certain company is hiring, and offers to introduce you.”
Make sure your resume is on point. “Start with revisiting your resume and re-examining the industry you were in previously. What has changed? Where are the gaps in your background? What can you do to fill in those gaps? Or is there a new industry that you may want to explore where your skills can translate?” advises career strategist Aliza Sherman, co-author of *Mom, Incorporated.” “Don’t be completely linear about your job search. Sometimes taking a familiar path may lead to a dead end whereas taking a detour could provide new and relevant opportunities.”
Make sure to create a professional profile online, such as a detailed profile on LinkedIn “to showcase your experiences and skills,” says Sherman, who adds, “Leverage online tools to find job opportunities – including those built into LinkedIn that help match you with relevant positions.”
You might find some employers hesitant to hire you since you have been out of the loop for a while. But there is a way around this. *Some can be reluctant. I think it’s in how you market yourself to the hiring managers/recruiters. I advise people to never, never, never lie – not on the resume and not during the job interview. However, I find that people often over-volunteer information in a way that makes them look bad and while the recruiter smiles kindly, they are out of the running,” suggests Battaglia. “You get around the reluctance by valuing your work while you are out of the market; practicing telling your story in an authentic, honest way; building up your self-esteem and confidence before you get back in the job market. Either hire a career coach to help, or work with someone who has hiring experience and will give you honest feedback. And get out there. To a large extent, it can be a numbers game.”
Be prepared to address some particular issues you may face having been away from your industry. “Getting back into the pacing of the workforce can be an issue. It’s a different kind of stamina than working at home takes. People working with you can be cruel, especially if your technology skills haven’t kept pace. And you may need to take an entry-level role or just above that, and there is often competition and drama in the workplace in those roles. Also, and I’ve seen this happen nearly every time – when a stay at home mom re-enters the workforce, one of the kids will get sick, or she will get sick, or there is a home drama that takes place within the training period. Murphy’s Law. And some will quit over it, viewing it as a sign that they shouldn’t be working. It’s all part of the life of a working parent,” says Battaglia.
‘“It can be difficult to get into the swing of a new routine. “Sticking to someone else’s schedule might also be hard. Rearrange your own schedule to maximize the time you have to spend on your personal priorities since work will most likely take up a huge chunk of your waking hours,” notes Sherman.
Try to avoid the common mistakes people make when getting back into the work stream. For one, many people are not confident. And if you are not confident about yourself, how will a potential employer be confident that you can do the job? “[Some people re-entering the workforce] lack confidence and undervalue their worth. They go in thinking they won’t get hired, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And they don’t know where to find and develop the skills they need to navigate the job search process as it is now,” Battaglia points out. “Their skills may be from the past when you developed your standard resume, put it on nice paper, and snail-mailed it to HR. Those days are gone. Many also don’t trust social media and don’t realize how important it is to embrace LinkedIn and have a positive online presence.”
But don’t be dissuaded. A career comeback is possible. *I’ve seen it happen again and again. You may need to take it in steps – get a foot in the door, assess if you like the company and the work, and work your way up or over. But it’s well worth the effort! You learn with every move you make,” says Battaglia.